Review Board Statutes

A Review Board as mandated by the particular law of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, contained in Essential Norms for Diocesan / Eparchial Policies Dealing with Allegations of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Priests or Deacons1 has been previously established in the Diocese of Lansing, and approval given to its statutes.

These statutes have been carefully reviewed now in light of current circumstances and proposed for revision by the Review Board on its meeting of October 18, 2021.

Catholic Diocese of Lansing, Review Board Statutes (approved by Bishop of Lansing, October 25, 2021):

  1. Purpose. In conformity with the Essential Norms for Diocesan / Eparchial Policies Dealing with Allegations of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Priests or Deacons, the Review Board of the Catholic Diocese of Lansing functions as a confidential consultative body to the Bishop (Essential Norm 4).

    The Review Board is to advise the Bishop in his assessment of allegations of sexual abuse of minors (which includes allegations from adults who habitually lack the use of reason and were abused during this state) and in his determination of a cleric's suitability for ministry. It shall regularly review diocesan policies and procedures for dealing with the sexual abuse of minors. The Review Board may offer advice on all aspects of these cases, whether retrospectively and prospectively (Essential Norm 4).
  2. Membership.
    1. Members. The members of the Review Board will be composed of at least five persons of outstanding integrity and good judgment in full communion with the Church. The majority of members will be lay persons who are not in the employ of the diocese, but at least one member should be a priest who is an experienced and respected pastor of the diocese in question, and at least one member should have expertise in treating minors who have been sexually abused (Essential Norm 5).  
    2. Term for Members. The members of the Review Board will be appointed for a term of five years, which can be renewed. The Bishop may remove a member of the Review Board at any time for violating the Code of Conduct or for other grave reason. Vacancies—whether occurring by resignation, removal, or by expiration of a term—are filled by appointment of the Bishop. 
    3. The diocesan Victim Assistance Coordinator, Safe Environment Coordinator, Vicar for Clergy, Promoter of Justice, and General Counsel serve as a resource panel for the Review Board and may participate in the meetings of the Review Board. The diocesan General Counsel serves as the primary liaison between the Review Board and the Bishop.
  3. Chair of the Review Board. The Review Board will select a Chair from among its members. The Chair presides at meetings and, in coordination with the diocesan General Counsel, sets the agenda for the meetings. When the Chair is unavailable for a meeting, the Review Board will select another member to preside at that meeting. Where appropriate, the Chair serves as the public representative of the Review Board. At least annually, the Chair will meet personally with the Bishop to report on recent activities of the Review Board.
  4. Meeting Procedure. The Review Board meets at least annually. A majority of the members of the Review Board constitute a quorum. The Chair presides at meetings of the Review Board. The goal is to reach decisions by consensus; if consensus cannot be achieved, the Review Board may decide a question by vote.
  5. Confidentiality and Ethics. The information received by the Review Board, unless independently made public, is confidential. The discussions that occur at meetings of the Review Board are confidential, except that they may be shared with the Bishop or his delegates at the request of the Bishop. Confidentiality is an essential element of service on the Review Board.

    No member of the Review Board will speak or interact individually with an alleged victim or an accused cleric, except within the scope of the member's work with the Review Board. Members shall recuse themselves from a matter in accordance with the circumstances enumerated in canons 492 §3, 1298 & 1448. 2
  6. Cooperation with Law Enforcement. The Diocese of Lansing cooperates with law enforcement regarding all allegations of sexual abuse of a minor. Before an allegation is referred to the Review Board, diocesan General Counsel refers the allegation to the appropriate county prosecutor and to the Attorney General of the state; likewise, the Victim Assistance Coordinator encourages victims to report directly to law enforcement. Law enforcement may, from time to time, request the Diocese to defer an investigation of the allegation until the applicable law enforcement investigation is complete; the Diocese and the Review Board will cooperate with such a request (Essential Norm 11).
  7. Investigation. Before an allegation is referred to the Review Board, the Diocese will retain a private investigator to investigate the allegation. If the allegation is more appropriately investigated by another diocese or religious order, the Diocese will coordinate with that diocese or religious order to ensure that the allegation is investigated. At the next scheduled meeting of the Review Board, diocesan General Counsel will update the Review Board regarding any pending investigations. Upon completion of the investigation, the Diocese will refer the allegation, including the investigative report and supporting exhibits, to the Review Board for consideration.

    “During the investigation the accused enjoys the presumption of innocence, and all appropriate steps shall be taken to protect his reputation. The accused will be encouraged to retain the assistance of civil and canonical counsel and will be promptly notified of the results of the investigation.” (Essential Norm 6)
  8. Consideration of Matters before the Review Board.
    1. Allegation against Living Cleric. When the Diocese refers an allegation against a living cleric to the Review Board, the Board will offer the alleged victim an opportunity to meet with the Review Board.  The accused will be encouraged to retain the assistance of civil and canonical counsel. (Essential Norm 6.) The Review Board will also offer the accused cleric along with his civil and canonical counsel an opportunity to meet with the Review Board. In advance of the Review Board meeting, diocesan staff will provide the accused cleric with a written narrative of the allegation from the alleged victim.
    2. Allegation against Deceased Cleric. When an allegation against a deceased cleric is referred to the Review Board by a representative of the Bishop, the Review Board will review the allegation. A person alleging sexual abuse of a minor by a deceased cleric may meet with the Review Board.
    3. Persons before the Review Board. A person appearing before the Review Board may present documents or written narratives. An alleged victim may bring a companion to the meeting. If preferable because of distance or other considerations, the Review Board may use teleconferencing equipment to meet with the alleged victim. 
  9. Counsel to the Bishop. The Bishop seeks the assistance of the Review Board in determining how best to respond to the allegation and may request the Review Board’s assistance regarding any other matters relating to the protection of minors.
    1. The Review Board should advise the Bishop that the allegation (a) appears to be false, (b) appears to be true,3 (c) further investigation is needed, or (d) there is insufficient evidence to determine whether the allegation appears to be false or appears to be true. If further investigation is recommended, the Review Board may make appropriate recommendations regarding the scope or form of the investigation.
    2. As appropriate, the Review Board should advise the Bishop regarding the cleric's suitability for ministry.
    3. The Review Board may advise the Bishop of any recommendations it has regarding the type(s) of assistance, if any, that the Diocese should provide to the alleged victim.
    4. The Review Board shall present its conclusions to the Bishop, either at the close of a meeting, at a later time to be promptly arranged, or through diocesan staff. If the Review Board reached its decision by vote because consensus could not be achieved, the views of both sides shall be presented to the Bishop. If the counsel and recommendations of the Review Board are transmitted to the Bishop by anyone other than the full Review Board, the Bishop may meet with the full Review Board if he desires elaboration regarding the conclusions or the reasoning of the Review Board. 
  10. Response by Bishop. The Bishop will consider the recommendation of the Review Board and will notify the Review Board of his decision.
  11. Timing. An allegation of sexual abuse, even if arising from circumstances years or decades earlier, is of overriding importance to the alleged victim, the accused cleric, the Diocese of Lansing, and the faithful. To the extent possible in light of professional and familial responsibilities, members of the Review Board are to give the highest priority to this work, and execute their responsibilities in a timely manner at every stage. When an alleged victim wishes to appear before the Review Board, the Diocese of Lansing expects the person to be permitted to meet with the Board at its next regularly scheduled meeting, unless circumstances require an expedited meeting. The Diocese of Lansing expects the Review Board to provide the Bishop its recommendations within ten days of the Review Board's final discussion of the case. The Chair will promptly explain any delay to the Bishop.
  12. Review of Diocesan Policies and Procedures. The Diocese of Lansing will provide the Review Board an updated list of its policies and procedures, including these Statutes, pertaining to abuse of minors. At any time, the Review Board may recommend changes in any of these policies and procedures. The Review Board shall review these statutes, policies, and procedures at least once every three years.
  13. Prayer. A member of the Review Board understands that this work is accomplished through a firm commitment to prayer, seeking the guidance of the Holy Spirit for the Bishop and the Review Board, and God's peace and healing for the alleged victim, the accused cleric, and anyone else involved in the matter.
  14. Faithful Service. In both personal and professional life, a member of the Review Board must exemplify the moral teachings of the Catholic Church. The member must not teach, advocate, model, or in any way encourage beliefs or behaviors that are contrary to the teachings of the Catholic Church. Each member of the Review Board will sign the diocesan Code of Conduct.

I approve and promulgate these revisions and revoke any prior versions by means of this executory decree. I order that they are to take immediate effect, and be communicated by publication on the diocesan website.

Given at the curia of the Diocese of Lansing on this twenty-fifth day of October in the year of Our Lord, 2021.


1 The members of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops approved as particular law the Essential Norms on November 13, 2002; they attained force following the grant of the required recognitio by the Congregation for Bishops on December 8, 2002. On June 17, 2005, the members of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops approved a revised text of the Essential Norms. By a decree dated January 1, 2006 the recognitio originally granted to the Essential Norms of 2002 was extended to the revised version donec aliter provideatur.

2 Can. 1448 §1 The judge is not to undertake the hearing of a case in which any personal interest may be involved by reason of consanguinity or affinity in any degree of the direct line and up to the fourth degree of the collateral line, or by reason of guardianship or tutelage, or of close acquaintanceship or marked hostility or possible financial profit or loss.

§2 The promoter of justice, the defender of the bond, the assessor and the auditor must likewise refrain from exercising their offices in these circumstances.

3 The “appears to be true” standard is akin to the “preponderance of the evidence” standard for civil liability and means “more likely than not.”

Review Board for Sex Abuse of Minors

Reverend Tom Firestone
Pastor, Catholic Community of Flint

Kathleen Damman OFS

Kevin D. Hayes
Former Clinton County Assistant Prosecutor
Former Assistant Attorney General for State of Michigan

Craig A. Kreger
Senior Attorney with Social Security Administration

James Owens
Mental Health Counselor and Adjunct Professor, Siena Heights University

Brian Wolcott
Former high school principal and athletic director within the Diocese of Lansing

Eileen Hathaway
Clinical Psychologist

Ex Officio Members (non-voting)

Fr. David Fons
Promoter of Justice – Tribunal
Pastor, St. Mary Parish, Williamston

Lisa Veenstra, LMSW
Diocesan Victim Assistance Coordinator

Reba Sommer
Diocesan Safe Environment Coordinator

William R. Bloomfield, Esq.
Diocesan General Counsel
Former Navy J.A.G. and Former Assistant Attorney General for State of Michigan

Reverend Karl Pung
Diocesan Vicar of Priests
Rector, St. Mary’s Cathedral

Date: December 21, 2022