Laura Keener, Editor.
At the annual Priests’ Retreat in early October, Bishop Roger Foys announced that a comprehensive review of all priest files is currently underway. Bishop Foys and the Diocesan Review Board (DRB) initiated the independent review as a way to continue to assure the priests and people that the Diocese of Covington has, as far as is humanly possible, addressed the scourge of sexual abuse of minors by its priests.
The review is part of the diocese’s ongoing commitment to creating a Safe Environment and ensuring that all allegations of child sexual abuse by priests over the last 70 years have been properly identified and reported. For the last year, Bishop Foys and the DRB have been discussing the desire for an additional independent and exhaustive look at the files.
In October of this year, two former FBI agents, with a combined 50 years of investigative experience, began the responsibility of reviewing thousands of diocesan records dating back to 1950. It is an independent review.
There is no timeline for the review and investigators have been instructed to be fastidious in their work. Once the investigators have completed their independent review the Diocese will be able to determine that all allegations of child sexual abuse by priests have been reported to the appropriate civil authorities. A report from the file review will be shared with the priests and people of the Diocese of Covington.
In 2003, a lawsuit brought on behalf of all persons who had been sexually abused as a minor by a priest of the Diocese of Covington was certified by the Boone Circuit Court as a class action. The class action was administered by the Court and scrutinized in a very public process.
In January 2006, after notice and a public hearing to determine whether a proposed settlement reached on behalf of the Class was “fair, reasonable, and adequate,” the settlement received final approval from the Court. The class settlement was open to anyone who had been sexually abused as a minor by a priest or lay employee of the Diocese or any Diocesan parish or institution. For months following final approval of the settlement, media outlets and newspapers across the country, including the Messenger, published notice of the class settlement and instructions on what abuse victims needed to do to file a claim for compensation from the class settlement fund.
Over a period of three and a half years, all claims were reviewed by court-appointed Special Masters and awards of $81,231,500 were made from the Class Settlement Fund. The court-appointed Settlement Master filed his final report to the Court on May 27, 2009. The report noted that 400 claims had been processed.
On May 28, 2009, after finding that “the Diocese of Covington and Bishop Foys have fulfilled all of their obligations under their settlement agreement with the Doe Class and this Court’s orders regarding the class settlement and its administration,” the Court entered a final order of dismissal.
Throughout this very difficult and painful period, in addition to the Diocese providing professional counseling, Bishop Foys has met individually with over 100 survivors. The Diocese continues to offer professional counseling to survivors and Bishop Foys will meet with any survivors requesting a meeting.
Since that time, Safe Environment policies, protocols and a code of conduct have been developed and are regularly updated. The diocese’s Safe Environment Office — through the VIRTUS program — performs training and background checks of all priests, deacons, seminarians, employees and volunteers working in the Curia, parishes, schools and Catholic organizations. From 2003 to the present, 33,145 persons have completed the VIRTUS program. Additionally, children in Catholic schools and parish schools of religion are trained on how to identify and report inappropriate behavior by adults.
It is important to note that currently no priests or deacons with substantiated allegations of sexual abuse of minors are in ministry in the Diocese of Covington.