May 19, 2005 in Idaho

Diocese officials support bishop

Christopher Smith Associated Press
 

BOISE – Accused of mishandling allegations of sexual misconduct by priests when he was a top aide in a California diocese, the leader of Idaho’s 144,000 Catholics has been diligent in preventing future abuses by clergy and laypeople, Diocese of Boise officials say.

Before this week’s release of hundreds of pages of personnel files from the Orange, Calif., diocese as part of a court-ordered settlement with abuse victims, Boise Bishop Michael Patrick Driscoll reiterated an apology for permitting priests to remain in the ministry after they had victimized children, for not disclosing their behavior to others who might be at risk and for not monitoring their actions more closely.

Driscoll was a priest in the Orange Diocese from 1976 to 1987 and served as the auxiliary bishop of the diocese from 1989 to 1999 before being named bishop of the Diocese of Boise, which oversees all parishes in the state. He first apologized for mishandling sexual abuse allegations in the California diocese in 2002.

“There is simply no excuse,” Driscoll said in a lengthy statement issued May 6 by the Boise Diocese and posted to its Web site. He declined further comment Wednesday.

As an aide to two Orange Diocese bishops, Driscoll frequently handled personnel issues involving priests and employees. He has been accused by victims who reached a record-setting $100 million settlement with the California diocese in December of consistently shielding known sex offenders from scrutiny or expulsion by downplaying the allegations against them or shuttling them off to other parishes.

But Boise Diocese Vicar General Ronald Wekerle said Wednesday that Driscoll has implemented sweeping changes in Idaho in accordance with a “zero tolerance” policy toward sexual misconduct by church clergy, lay workers and volunteers.

“If you are wondering did he get it, I think he got it,” said Wekerle, pastor of St. Jerome’s Catholic Church in Jerome, a community in southeastern Idaho. “He admits what happened was a mistake and he’s deeply committed to creating a safe environment.”

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