by Bob Reddy, Florida Catholic (5/2/12)
VENICE â€“Â A small group of dedicated people work anonymously in support of investigating and recommending actions whenever an allegation of sexual abuse of minors or vulnerable adults comes to the attention of the Diocese of Venice.
The Review Board functions as a consultative body to the Bishop in discharging his responsibilities. The functions of this Review Board include:
Col. Jack Dellorto is the Chairman of the Review Board and was involved in its creation in 2002 at the behest of then-Bishop John J. Nevins, under guidelines created by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Prior to the creation of the Board, Dellorto served on a Diocesan committee which directly handled accusations on a case-by-case basis.
Dellorto is retired from the U.S. Air Force where he raised to the level of squadron commander. He is a certified counselor and was director of a community mental health center before volunteering with the Diocese in 1994.
â€śThe concrete steps our Diocese has made to protect our children and any other vulnerable person in the past years has been remarkable,â€ť he said. â€śThe annual independent audits of the Dioceseâ€™ (Safe Environment Program and Review Board) assess how we are performing, have rated us excellent and praised our efforts, and at times, used us as an example for other Dioceses.â€ť
While the Board deals with difficult subject matter, the members work closely to ensure the process is passionate for all, Dellorto said.
The Review Board is composed of 11 members of outstanding integrity and good judgment in full communion with the Church and can never have fewer than eight people. The majority of the Review Board is laity who are not employed by the Diocese. At least one member is a priest who is a pastor in the Diocese. At least one member must also have particular expertise in the treatment of the sexual abuse of minors or vulnerable adults. The members are appointed by the Bishop for a term of five years, which can be renewed.
â€śSince the Board was created, we have developed the tools to keep control of issues, which allows us to take action quickly,â€ť Dellorto explained. â€śThe Diocese of Venice is putting into action the safeguards to minimize the risks to the public. While we can put in all of the effective safeguards we want, future allegations will occur. The Review Board is prepared to take action if/when that takes place.â€ť
When an accusation is made, the Review Board is contacted by the Diocese Victim Assistance Coordinator, Barbara E. DiCocco, L.C.S.W. The Board will meet as quickly as possible to review the case and hear from any independent investigator. Part of this process includes interviewing the accuser, the accused and any witnesses. In cases that are decades old, the Board works with any and all information possible.
In addition to dealing directly with DiCocco, Diocese Chancellor Dr. Volodymyr Smeryk serves as a non-voting advisor to the Board. The final decisions and recommendations of the Board are given on an advisory basis to the Bishop who then determines the best course of action to move forward.
â€śIt should be comforting for people in the Diocese of Venice to know that such a Board exists as part of the larger Safe Environment Program,â€ť Dellorto said. â€śPeople should be aware of the programs that are in place and know that we are doing everything possible to prevent cases of abuse from happening again.â€ť
To report an allegation of sexual abuse of a minor by someone working or volunteering in the Church, call Barbara DiCocco, victim assistance minister, 941-416-6114. She returns calls within 24 hours and coordinates assistance for the immediate pastoral care of victims while respecting the privacy of those who seek assistance.
For more information about the Diocese Safe Environment Program or the Review Board please visit www.dioceseofvenice.org and follow the Safe Environment link.