TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - The Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Tucson elaborated Tuesday on a lengthy statement he shared following the grand jury report regarding sexual abuse allegations in Pennsylvania.
Bishop Ed Weisenburger spoke to a room of reporters at the diocesan office in downtown Tucson. He said the diocese does not have any priests practicing the faith under investigation for sexual misconduct allegations. He said the number of allegations of recent abuse have dropped significantly.
"I think we're doing incredible well," he said. "I think children in our churches, children in our schools, children in our religious education programs are happy, healthy and safe."
The Catholic Church has an Office of Child, Adolescent and Adult Protective Services which oversees the Safe Environment Program. The program includes background checks, finger printing protocols and other practices to ensure the people working and volunteering for the Church are who they say they are.
The Diocese of Tucson provided data on the people removed from work or volunteering because of this program. Since 2008, a dozen non-payroll individuals have lost their clearance because of sexual misconduct allegations. In that same time, ten employees have lost their clearance and been terminated.
That total accounts for 1.3 percent of all diocesan employees. The prior figure is 1.5 percent of non-payroll individuals requiring a clearance.
Weisenburger said the Church failed to properly handle the years of sexual abuse, but he claims the Church's inaction was no less than that of the rest of society. He cited national statistics that stated one in five girls will be assaulted before her 18th birthday. That ratio is one in twelve for boys in the same age range.
"There's a part of me that says even though it's painful for the Church to have the spotlight on us, if it helps bring about that light to the rest of our culture...'m willing to take that heat if it'll result in some good," the bishop said.
Weisenburger said that the Church will continue to be diligent in its handling of any allegations, and he’s hopeful that the rest of us will do so as well.