By Peter Finney

The Clarion Herald  

The chair of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on the Protection of Children and Young People said a two-year project to revise the charter that guides the U.S. church in protecting minors from sexual abuse is nearly ready to be presented to the full body of bishops.  

“We’ve done a lot of nice work over the last two years,” Lafayette Bishop Timothy L. Doherty, chair of the committee, told the 13th annual Child and Youth Protection Catholic Leadership Conference in New Orleans. “The great thing people should know is that this has been a collaboration among a lot of bishops’ committees and the National Review Board, who are professional people – judges, lawyers, therapists, trauma experts. There’s a lot of healthy conversation there, and our church can be very proud of the people who are working toward the protection of children.”  

The annual conference June 3-6, which was co-sponsored by the Diocese of Baton Rouge, the Archdiocese of New Orleans, and the other five diocese in the state of Louisiana, attracted more than 150 persons from across the U.S. working in areas of safe environment, victims’ assistance and pastoral care.  

“It was a very informative conference,’ ” Amy Cordon, director of the Office of Child Protection for the Diocese of Baton Rouge, said.  “Teresa Kettelkamp (of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors), Dr. Monica Applewhite, Archbishop (Greg) Aymond (of the Archdiocese of New Orleans) and our own Judicial Vicar, Father Paul Counce, did an outstanding job illustrating just how much work has been done since 2002 in the United States to protect children and vulnerable adults in the church.”  

Providing a snapshot for how the church has responded during the past 15 years to the sexual abuse of minors, Bishop Doherty  said “the good news” is that “there have been really solid efforts in individual dioceses for the protection of children and vulnerable people.”  

“There’s been huge training,” he said. “Millions of children and hundreds of thousands of adults have gone through these programs, and it’s simply not publicized well enough.”  

One of the challenges, Bishop Doherty said, is that the “historical nature of some of the (sexual abuse) cases” has prompted approximately 15 states to extend their statute of limitations on incidents of abuse that may have happened “30 or 40 years ago, if not more.”  

Bishop Doherty said some of the new laws extending the statute of limitations have targeted exclusively the Catholic Church and have had “nothing to do with government or public schools.”  

“It should be known that in most of the states, the bishops are really for (extended statute of limitations) provided no other (state) agency is exempt from that kind of research,” he said.  

Bishop Doherty said the story of the church’s response to sexual abuse has not been acknowledged by many outside the church.  

“One of the reasons we have Catholic newspapers is so we can speak with our own voice so that people can hear our story, because there’s no money to be made in a report that says the Catholic Church is doing good things,” Bishop Doherty said. “We do more than put on ecclesiastical fashion shows at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.”