In 1993 the Catholic religious Order of Friars Minor of the Province of St. Barbara (Franciscans) formed the Independent Board of Inquiry regarding St. Anthony’s seminary in Santa Barbara, CA. This was an independent board of professionals charged with investigating allegations of sexual abuse that took place at the seminary from the 1960’s through the 1980’s.
In 1994 the Province formed the Independent Response Team (IRT) to continue the work begun by the Independent Board of Inquiry. The IRT’s function was to receive complaints of sexual misconduct, offer assistance to those who had suffered abuse, and to monitor treatment and placement of offenders. At the time, there were no other models in place nationally for offering assistance to victims/survivors.
In 2002, the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops approved the “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People,",pledging to assure the safety of all children in the Catholic dioceses. They established a national lay board that created national criteria for compliance to the Charter.
Shortly thereafter, the Conference of Major Superiors of Men (CMSM), an organization that serves the leadership of the Catholic orders and congregations of religious priests and brothers of the United States, of which the Franciscans of the Province of St. Barbara are members, issued a parallel document, “Improving Pastoral Care and Accountability In Response to the Tragedy of Sexual Abuse.”
In conjunction with Praesidium Inc., a risk management consultancy, CMSM created national standards of compliance regarding the receipt of complaints and response to victims, the education of members and the supervision of its offenders and how review boards should work, including contracting with qualified individuals for pastoral outreach. CMSM then issued guidelines to all its members for best practices for establishing lay review boards and for the job of victim assistance coordinator.
After a lengthy certification review, the Franciscan Province of St. Barbara was granted accreditation in 2005 with a recommendation that it institute changes in the IRT that were more directly in line with CMSM best practices. The Franciscans have followed Praesidium’s advice, complied with CMSM guidelines and instituted those changes.
Like the IBOI before it, the IRT has given way to a Province Review Board, a volunteer lay review committee aided by an investigative team, a consultant who monitors the Aftercare program for offenders, and an office of Pastoral Outreach headed by a Pastoral Outreach Coordinator (POC).
Under this new structure the work of the IRT has been divided into separate functions. The POC receives calls regarding complaints of sexual misconduct, manages ongoing care and support for the victims/survivors, and works with families, parishes, communities, etc., that have been affected by sexual misconduct. The investigative team looks into complaints as they come in; the review board examines cases and, in consultation with the POC and the investigators, makes recommendations to the Province.