Vicar says task force will have access to what it needs

| November 6, 2013 | 0 Comments
Father Whitt

Father Whitt

The archdiocese’s vicar for ministerial standards rejects assertions made in some media reports that the newly formed Safe Environment and Ministerial Standards Task Force isn’t truly independent and won’t have access to all the information it needs to carry out its work.

The task force, which is comprised of three laymen and four laywomen from a variety of professional fields, was formed last month to conduct a full review of the archdiocese’s policies and practices related to clergy sexual misconduct.

“Anything that falls within the ambit of policies or procedures or activities undertaken to enforce those policies, that documentation is theirs to review,” said Dominican Father Reginald Whitt, the vicar for ministerial standards. “The very decree I issued establishing [the task force] indicates that all documents pertaining to issues of clergy sexual misconduct are to be provided to them.”

In a previous interview when the task force was announced, Father Whitt said that “whatever they recommend to me as reasonable for them to perform their task, it’s my business to see that they get it.”

While task force members may direct requests for files to Father Whitt, they also may request them directly from the chancellors of civil and canonical affairs. The only limitation on the task force is that its requests be relevant to issues of clergy sexual misconduct, Father Whitt said.

Documentation such as seminary transcripts or correspondence between a priest and the archbishop that has nothing to do with sexual misconduct are among the kinds of records that would not be relevant to the task force’s charge, he said. If questions would arise about the relevancy of a particular record, Father Whitt said he and the task force chair would sit down and make the proper determination.

He said that the task force has received all the information it has requested to date.

Media reports questioning the task force’s access to information arose following an Oct. 21 letter Father Whitt sent to priests and deacons in the archdiocese explaining his role and the work of the task force, including its ability to access clergy files. In the letter, he said that “access to these files will be within my control, and limited only to what is necessary for the Task Force to be able to make an informed decision with respect to the policy review.”

He said that, in hindsight, the word “control” was “an injudicious term” to use.

Father Whitt is not a member of the task force, does not attend its meetings and does not receive minutes of its meetings.

“To suggest that the people in the task force lack the integrity to pursue their charge diligently is frankly unfair,” he said. “The proof of the pudding is in the tasting. Let’s let them do their work and produce their report. But to criticize them before they’ve done anything, or to criticize me before I’ve done anything, to suggest the whole enterprise is dishonest from the get-go, is not only false but unfair.”

Tags: , ,

Category: Local News