The archdiocese has been found in compliance with all audited articles within the U.S. Bishops’ Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People for the 2015-2016 audit period.
StoneBridge Business Partners of Rochester performed the on-site audit of the archdiocese Dec. 7-8, according to Edward Mechmann, director of the archdiocesan Safe Environment Program.
The conclusions are based upon inquiry, observation and review of specifically requested documentation to StoneBridge during the audit.
“It’s a real testament to how significant the charter has been to us,” and how committed both Cardinal Dolan and his predecessor, the late Cardinal Edward Egan, have been to it.
“It’s a very gratifying accomplishment,” Mechmann added. “It was a serious, good audit.”
The child protection effort, he said, “always has to stay up to date and has to adapt.”
“We learn things, and we adapt to those,” he said. “We try to recognize problems before they arise and then we try to close them off.”
The auditors were interested in the fact that, as reported in CNY, four retired NYPD detectives or ranking officers were hired last spring to tap into their “well-trained instincts” about “what are the potential areas we have to be careful of—it’s almost like patrol,” Mechmann said.
“That,” Mechmann told CNY last week, “showed them that we are forward-thinking.”
For the parish visitation project, the safe environment office provides the retired NYPD personnel surveys, which they use to interview pastors, directors of religious education and others to ensure safe environment policies and procedures and related paperwork are in proper order at parishes and schools, and that all are in compliance, Mechmann said.
They also examine facilities for physical issues, such as poor lighting and inadequate exits, as well as the mixture of minors with outside populations.
They are also asked to look for “dead zones,” Mechmann explained, “areas that are not open to scrutiny—stairwells, maintenance halls, places where people (could potentially) take kids and be alone with them.”
Since the last on-site audit three years ago, the policy on sexual misconduct has been fully revised. “They suggested that and it was a good thing,” Mechmann said. “It was something we had been thinking about anyway.
“You can’t let your policies be fixed in amber,” Mechmann said. “Things have happened. We’ve learned a lot.”
When the original policy on sexual misconduct was developed in the 1990s, “I don’t think anybody anticipated the extent to which child pornography would be a problem,” Mechmann said.
He cited as an example the subsequent crafting of “a very tight definition on what child pornography is,” based on statutes, canon law and cases. “We want to make sure we catch all the fish in the net.”
Since the last on-site audit, new curricula have been introduced for children’s programs, which addresses issues such as pornography, dating violence and peer-on-peer sexual abuse, he said.
A documentary audit, which occurs every two years, is primarily statistical, incorporates a review of new developments and includes dialogue.
Mechmann said he hopes that his office raises awareness of the reality of the problem. “When people see the studies, they are horrified at how common sex abuse is. The vast majority of it takes place within families and within homes.
“We’re hoping that the children who are growing up now and are going through our programs, will be more aware of how to protect themselves, and that their parents will be more aware of how to protect their children.”
Among the recommendations from the auditors was enhancing publicity about the issue.
The auditors noted that “the archdiocese does a great job of posting victim assistance information in their diocesan publication and by sending bulletin inserts to individual parishes.”
Mechmann said his office is exploring how to enhance awareness to the general public through its social media presence, including via Facebook and flocknote.