Catholic Church Risk-Management
Efforts Reducing Abuse, Claims
A priest (and risk manager) discusses what dioceses are doing differently
who also plays an important role in risk
management for the church.
“The church, like any other institution,
has risks it has to manage,” says Monsignor
Edward J. Arsenault, who has been a Roman
Catholic priest for 23 years, most recently
serving in the Diocese of Manchester, N.H.
Arsenault’s risk-management efforts
have been implemented in the state of
New Hampshire and also in dioceses across
Arsenault also is president and CEO of
Saint Luke Institute in Silver Spring, Md.,
a mental-health treatment facility that
primarily serves Catholic priests and nuns.
E CHILD-PROTECTION EFFORTS such as safe-environment coordinators, training programs and
background checks resulted in a 36 percent decline in allegations of abuse involving Catholic dioceses clergy in 2009 compared to 2008.
BY CAROLINE MCDONALD
A HISTORY OF well-publicized events of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church have led to much soul-searching in recent years, resulting in new and improved risk-management guidelines and procedures to protect children and youth.
These changes, according to recent studies, have lowered injuries as well as claims.
Photo by Thinkstock
The 2010 annual report from the U.S.
Conference of Catholic Bishops states that
in 2009, there was a 36 percent decline
from 2008 in allegations of abuse involving
According to the report, payments for
settlements peaked in 2007 at about $450
million. By comparison, settlements in
2010 had dropped to around $54 million.
To get a better understanding of how
the church is improving its handling of
these and other risks, NU spoke to a priest
THE RELIGIOUS RESPONSE TO
CLAIMS—AND THE LEGAL ONE
“As much as we try to prevent things from
happening in the first place, when they do
happen, we work with insurers and self-insurance,” Arsenault says.
Such a response to an event would
sound familiar, of course, to a risk manager
for most any private or public organization.
But, Arsenault observes, the church
“generally is not oriented to risk manage-
ment in a traditional business sense. Our
natural pastoral inclination is, if some-
body is harmed, you ask, ‘what can I do
to help you?’”
This orientation is sharply different
from that of lawyers, he adds, whose job
is to manage litigation and try to avoid it.
When dealing with crimes against minors, “bishops often have relied on attorneys to help them manage risk—and
attorneys build walls” between those with
claims and those in the church who
would want to minister to the alleged
victim, says Arsenault.
He explains that in the past, too often
an incident that had been reported “ended
up on a lawyer’s desk, who managed it in
a way other than how a pastor or bishop
October 3, 2011 | National Underwriter Property & Casualty | 27