Archdiocese of Oklahoma City to release report on clergy sex abuse

Archdiocese of Oklahoma City

ENID, Okla. — The Archdiocese of Oklahoma City is completing a report, scheduled to be released Feb. 28, detailing allegations of abuse by clergy dating back to 1960.

Archbishop Paul Coakley commissioned the report last August through the Archdiocesan Review Board, which was created in 2002 as part of the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People. The charter was established by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops to address child sexual abuse allegations.

According to an archdiocese press release from last August, the report was commissioned to identify "instances where credible allegations of child sexual abuse were reported, substantiated, prosecuted or admitted to among priests serving in the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City."

The process has included a review by the office of Archdiocese Chancellor Michael Scaperlanda of files for every priest who has served in the archdiocese since 1960.

Diane Clay, director of communications for the archdiocese, said the review board will continue examining priests' files dating before 1960 after the initial report is released. She said the initial report was limited to cases since 1960 to publish those cases "in a more timely fashion."

Clay said the current review is focused solely on ordained clergy and does not include non-ordained church or school staff members in the archdiocese.

The archdiocese has retained the services of Oklahoma City law firm McAfee & Taft to examine all files containing any allegations of sexual abuse by clergy, Clay said.

According to the August press release, McAfee & Taft attorney Ron Shinn, "an expert in internal institutional investigations," will "conduct an independent review of the files and investigate further, if necessary."

Clay said the review process also includes implementation of new reporting protocols that will enable the archdiocese to better track and process any abuse allegations.

All abuse allegations uncovered in the review will be entered into a database to be tracked by an archdiocese victim assistant coordinator, Clay said.

Older cases, which have surpassed the statute of limitations for criminal cases, still will be forwarded to law enforcement to make a record of the allegations. Clay said the archdiocese is working with Oklahoma City Police Department and the Oklahoma County District Attorney's Office to make a record of those older cases.

Newer cases, where the priest still may be serving and the statute limitations may not have expired, will be reported to the vicar general, chancellor and archbishop. Clay said any past allegations found to be credible will be forwarded to law enforcement for further action.

The report still is being compiled, but when it's released Feb. 28 Clay said the list won't be nearly as lengthy as other clergy abuse reports that have made headlines in the last year.

A Pennsylvania grand jury report, released last August, detailed clergy abuse of more than 1,000 victims by more than 300 priests dating back to 1947.

Clay said the forthcoming report from the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City will be on a much smaller scale, due largely to it being from a much smaller archdiocese than similar reports from more populous states. She said she expects the number of reported cases on the list since 1960 to be fewer than 20.

"That doesn't diminish the seriousness of each case that we have had since 1960," Clay said, "but it will be less than what people have seen in states with much bigger populations."

To prevent future incidences of abuse, Clay said the archdiocese also has updated its "Safe Environment" protocol, which requires training, interviews and background checks for all clergy, staff and volunteers.

Clay said the updated protocol focuses on identifying risk factors, preventing and reporting abuse.

Anyone in the archdiocese who was trained prior to 2014 is required to be re-trained by August, to ensure compliance with the updated protocol, Clay said.

Going forward, Clay said any allegations of current or ongoing abuse will be forwarded to law enforcement and Oklahoma Department of Human Services for investigation.

Anyone also can report past or present abuse through the Abuse of Minors Pastoral Response Hotline at (405) 720-9878. But, Clay said, calling the pastoral hotline does not relieve individuals of their obligation under Oklahoma law to report to civil authorities any incident or suspicion of sexual abuse of a minor.

"If someone suspects there is a current situation (of abuse)," Clay said, "they should report it to DHS and law enforcement as well."

Oklahoma Department of Human Services has established a statewide abuse reporting hotline at (800) 522-3511.