San Diego Bishop Robert McElroy last October spoke at the first of eight listening sessions about clergy abuse. Photo by Chris Stone

More than 2,500 employees of the San Diego-Imperial Roman Catholic Diocese have been summoned to what is being called a first ever all-hands meeting here with the bishop.

A press release Thursday said the meeting — 1-4 p.m. Tuesday at the University of San Diego’s Jenny Craig Pavilion — is mandatory. It will discuss the clergy sex abuse issue.

San Diego Bishop Robert W. McElroy slated the meeting in response to Pope Francis’ call in May for a transformation in the way the Catholic Church responds to the sexual abuse of children, said a press release.

“All diocesan employees will hear about the steps the diocese is taking to protect children and young people, and on the moral and legal responsibilities shared by all of the diocese’s employees, not just mandated reporters, to report suspicions of child abuse,” said the news release.

On Friday, a diocesan spokeswoman said employees received a letter from the bishop dated June 21 advising them of the mandatory meeting.

San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan also is set to make presentations, along with diocesan Chancellor María Galván.

An undated posting on the diocesan newspaper website, The Southern Cross, said the meeting is the latest action taken by McElroy since last summer in response to the sexual abuse crisis across the country.

“Just in May, he joined four other California dioceses and the Los Angeles Archdiocese in announcing the creation of a Victim’s Compensation Program operated independently of the church,” said the report.

“When the program begins later this summer, any victim-survivor of abuse by a priest of the San Diego Diocese when they were a minor will be able to present a claim free of charge, regardless of when the abuse occurred. In most cases, those who qualify will receive a settlement offer within 90 days of completing their claim.”

No priest of the San Diego diocese has been found to have sexually abused a minor since 2004, as determined by the Independent Review Board, said the report.

Last year, investigations by authorities in Pennsylvania and other states revealed the systematic cover-up by bishops of more than 1,000 cases of child abuse over decades. At the same time, widespread abuse came to light in such countries as Chile, Germany and Australia.

In a letter to all employees of the diocese, McElroy quoted Pope Francis:

“The crimes of sexual abuse offend Our Lord, cause physical, psychological and spiritual damage to the victims and harm the community of the faithful. In order that these phenomena, in all of their forms, never happen again, a continuous and profound conversion of hearts is needed, attested by concrete and effective actions that involve everyone in the church,” he wrote.

McElroy wrote that “this mandate for conversion, vigilance and action” by all in the church led him to conclude that the diocese should bring together all of its employees working in parishes, schools, administrative offices, Catholic Charities and in other institutions (such as chaplains working in hospitals or prisons) to receive key information about the sexual abuse of minors.

Three presentations are planned.

One will explore the church’s response to the sexual abuse crisis. Another will review the obligations of staff members who are mandated by law to report suspected abuse. And a third will underscore every employee’s mission to raise awareness of potential sex abuse and to act to prevent it even if they are not mandated reporters.

A similar session for all diocesan staff members in the Imperial Valley will be held Sept. 4 at St. Mary’s Parish in El Centro.

Last fall, McElroy held eight listening sessions across the diocese where he heard concerns and proposals regarding the sex abuse crisis.

In January, the bishop announced several measures he was taking as a result of those sessions and other input he had received. These included:

  • Hiring a consulting firm led by a former FBI deputy director to conduct an independent review of all the diocese’s files involving a report of sex abuse. The review resulted in the names of 52 credibly accused priests being published on the diocesan website, sdcatholic.org.
  • Hiring a full-time staff member to coordinate support of victim-survivors, regardless of where the abuse may have occurred.
  • And expanding the role of the Independent Review Board to also investigate reports of sexual abuse of adults by clergy.

Updated at 11:20 a.m. Aug. 9, 2019

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