Parishioners, employees, volunteers and clergy with the Catholic Diocese of Richmond have a new way to report suspected misconduct that isn’t sexual abuse.
As of Monday, the diocese now has a third-party company, EthicsPoint, managing an anonymous hotline intended for people to report financial mismanagement or administrative issues in local churches, offices and schools in the diocese’s jurisdiction.
The implementation of the new ethics hotline comes as the diocese is reckoning with its admission that approximately 50 of its priests have been credibly accused of sexually abusing children in incidents that took place between the 1950s and 2000s.
In a video announcing the implementation of the new hotline, Richmond Bishop Barry C. Knestout said the diocese hopes more people will feel encouraged to report misconduct, but that sexual abuse continue to report sexual abuse allegations to law enforcement authorities and Child Protective Services before contacting the diocese’s confidential sexual abuse hotline.
“We must uphold the commitments we have made and the legacy we have been handed in a fair and honorable manner. This includes reviewing existing policies and procedures and revising them in order to ensure that the diocese is providing the tools and environment needed to strengthen our Church, our communities and one another,” Knestout said in a letter to the church community.
“Christian stewardship calls us to utilize the resources of the diocese with integrity,” he said. “Providing such an avenue for honest, thoughtful discourse on topics that may not otherwise come to light will be advantageous in supporting the people and institutions of the Diocese of Richmond.”
A report from the National Catholic Reporter about fraud in churches published earlier this year quotes an Diocese of Richmond officer who said all of the diocese’s parishes are regularly audited and mandated to have procedures for money collection and accounting.
The article also mentions a recent major embezzlement case in the archdiocese of Philadelphia, Miami and the Diocese of Kansas-City-St.Joseph, Ms.
Knestout has declined to be interviewed by the Richmond Times-Dispatch at least four times since August, but has said in communications with parishioners that the diocese is committed to improving transparency.
The letter and a news release announcing the launch of the new hotline provide no information about whether incidents of fraud or unethical behavior in recent years spurred diocese leaders to consider options for combating such problems.
A spokeswoman for the diocese did not immediately respond to a phone call seeking comment Monday afternoon.