Friday, April 4, 2003

Diocese formed lay committee in '94

Group monitors response to sex charges

By Brenna R. Kelly
The Cincinnati Enquirer

COVINGTON - Though there has been no organized push in Northern Kentucky to promote openness in church sex abuse scandals, the Diocese of Covington has had a lay committee in place to advise church leaders on such issues since 1994.

In Dayton, Ohio, Thursday evening, two nationally known groups critical of the Catholic Church's handling of sexual abuse scandals launched a campaign urging church leaders to be more open about the scandals.

Under a clerical sex abuse policy approved last year by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, dioceses must form review boards of lay people to advise bishops on responding to abuse allegations.

The Covington Diocese formed such a board in 1994, said diocese spokesman Tim Fitzgerald.

The committee, which consists of 12 to 15 members, meets every other month to monitor the diocese's response to sexual misconduct.

The board also helps revise the diocese's sexual misconduct policy, which has been in place since 1985, Fitzgerald said.

The Diocesan Web site lists the following members for the committee: Chairman, Dr. Matthew J. Connolly; members: Patty Banks; Dr. Matthew J. Connolly; James Deavy; Sue Dressman; Rev. James B. Egbers; Philip Gessner; Dr. Karen Graves; Sr. Maureen Heverin, S.C.; the Rev. Lynda R. Hoskinds; Jack LaVelle; Edward Lorenz; the Very Rev. Gerald L. Reinersman, V.G.; Mary Ann Stewart; Margaret M. Schack; and the Rev. Robert C. Wehage.

The committee next meets in May.

The diocese recently added a provision to the policy that requires background checks for all employees and volunteers, he said.

But the policy has not kept the Covington Diocese free of scandal.

Last month the diocese was ordered to open its records to an attorney trying to prove that church leaders permitted an atmosphere in which sexual abuse of children was tolerated. Attorney Stan Chesley is representing Mark Fischer, who accuses the Rev. Louis J. Holtz of sexual abuse.

In 1993, Father Earl Bierman pleaded guilty to 25 counts of molestation of six teenage boys He is serving a 20-year sentence at the Kentucky State Reformatory at LaGrange.


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