Local Diocese Audited for Compliance with Church Policy

In the midst of several shocking sex scandals, the Catholic church enacted a new charter last June on how it would handle sexual abuse cases involving the clergy. In the months that followed, 54 auditors visited more than 100 diocese, including Savannah's, to find out if they are in compliance. WTOC spoke with officials at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist to find out how they did.

Auditors were looking to see if the church was cooperative and if they had anything to hide. What used to be handled strictly within the Catholic church is now being dealt with in other ways. "Anyone who has any concern, we are encouraging to call law enforcement," said diocese spokesperson Barbara King.

With the church working to clear its name, many policies have been put into place to help deal with any sexual abuse head on. "Anything that reaches the level that law enforcement should be told, we are working very closely with any legitimate law enforcement agency in Georgia," said King.

Even though the diocese has undergone its own humiliation when a former associate pastor, Father Wayland Brown, was convicted on child molestation charges, its polices are still in total compliance. "They did have three recommendations which since then we've complied with," said King.

Recommendations that require literature about sexual abuse to be translated in other languages, tougher background checks and fingerprints on those individuals who spend time with children. They're also working on a program for clergy on how to conduct themselves around children and how to identify victims of abuse.

"That's a wonderful new program that's been instituted in all schools, parishes and all social science centers thoughout the diocese," said King.

For more information about the audit and the church's policy on sex abuse, you can read the report online or call 888.357.5330.

Reported by: Nicole Teigen, nteigen@wtoc.com