SAN BERNARDINO—The Diocese of San Bernardino is one of six dioceses in California that has been asked by State Attorney General Xavier Becerra to collect all documentation of allegations of sexual abuse of a minor received from 1996 to the present.
The request covers all paper and digital information related to child sexual abuse that is possessed by diocesan ministry offices as well as parishes, Catholic schools, Apostolic Groups, Catholic healthcare and social service groups and others under the jurisdiction of the Diocese. It applies to any documented allegation of abuse received by anyone acting in a ministerial capacity. The request does not just seek allegations against clergy, it includes allegations reported against anyone.
The other five dioceses asked to “preserve” these documents are San Diego, Monterey, Santa Rosa, Stockton and Oakland. The Archdioceses of Los Angeles and San Francisco along with the Dioceses of Sacramento, Orange, Fresno and San Jose have been asked to go one step further and submit these records to Becerra’s office.
With the large number of diocesan entities involved, the request is a major gathering of information. The Diocese is moving quickly to cooperate with the State and inform offices, parishes, schools and others in the most efficient way to find and collect the documents. Several meetings to explain the process were held at the Diocesan Pastoral Center in June and at least one meeting was held in each of the six vicariates of the Diocese to inform parishes and schools.
Records to be identified include reports filed with law enforcement, internal reports of abuse, policies and protocols related to abuse, any statements or correspondence related to abuse, records of therapy provided to victims of abuse, emails and recorded voice messages related to allegations of abuse.
California is the 15th state in which the Attorney General’s Office has requested records from dioceses related to allegations of child sexual abuse. An investigation conducted by the Pennsylvania Attorney General and the resulting Grand Jury Report released last August brought the clergy sexual abuse crisis back to prominence.
Over the past year, the Diocese of San Bernardino has responded to renewed concerns about the issue by taking several steps:
• Published a list of all priests credibly accused of sexual abuse of a minor over the 40-year history of the Diocese.
• Joined with five other Dioceses in California to launch an Independent Compensation Program (ICP) for victims of abuse.
• Published and disseminated a full summary of Diocesan Policies and Actions taken since 2002 to address clergy sexual abuse of minors.