DIOCESAN POLICY STATEMENT
A SAFE ENVIRONMENT FOR THE PROTECTION OF CHILDREN AND YOUNG PEOPLE
Our society has grown acutely and painfully aware of the tragedy of child sexual abuse. The trauma and damage such abuse causes its victims, their families, and the community are compounded when the abuser is a priest, deacon, seminarian, or a lay employee or volunteer working for the Church. In these situations, not only the victims and their families, but also the parish, the Diocese and the universal Church are seriously compromised and jeopardized.
On June 14, 2002, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops approved a “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People” (hereinafter charter.) The charter addresses the Church’s commitment to deal appropriately and effectively with cases of sexual abuse of minors by priests, deacons, religious or lay employees and volunteers. The bishops of the United States have promised to reach out to those who have been sexually abused as minors by anyone serving the Church in ministry, employment, or a volunteer position, whether the sexual abuse was recent or occurred many years ago. They will be as open as possible with the people in parishes and communities about instances of sexual abuse of minors, with respect always for the privacy and the reputation of the individuals involved. They have committed themselves to the pastoral and spiritual care and emotional well being of those who have been sexually abused and of their families.
In addition, the bishops will work with parents, civil authorities, educators, and various organizations in the community to make and maintain the safest environment for minors. In the same way, the bishops have pledged to evaluate the background of seminary applicants as well as all church personnel, who have responsibility for the care and supervision of children and young people.
These policies and programs, as set forth by the Diocese of Lake Charles, recognize that sexual and other abusive misconduct with minors is a special problem with a profound impact on the lives of those affected. They are in place to provide for a safe environment for all children and persons who come in contact with those who minister, are employed, or volunteer in service of the Church.
VICTIMS/SURVIVORS OF SEXUAL ABUSE OF MINORS
The church’s obligation with regard to all victims, whether alleged or substantiated, is for pastoral outreach to the victims/survivors and their families. The bishop, or his representative, will reach out to victims/survivors and their families with a sincere
commitment to their spiritual and emotional well-being. The first obligation of the church with regard to the victim/survivor and their families is for healing and reconciliation.
- The bishop, or his representative, will offer to meet with the victim/survivor and their families, to listen with patience and compassion to their experiences and their concerns. Pastoral outreach by the bishop, or his representative, will also be directed to the faith communities in which the sexual abuse occurred.
- The diocese shall develop programs for outreach. These programs shall promote healing and understanding. We will cooperate with parents, civil authorities, educators, and community organizations to provide education and training for children, youth, parents, educators, clerics, church employees and volunteers, and others about ways to make and maintain a safe environment for children.
- The diocese will make clear to clergy, employees, volunteers, and all members of the community, the standards of conduct for all persons in positions of trust with regard to sexual abuse.
The outreach program shall include provisions for counseling, spiritual assistance, support groups, and other social services agreed upon by the victim and the diocese. At all times, cooperation is to be fostered with other social agencies, churches, and support groups for victims/survivors and others affected by abuse.
Victim Assistance Coordinator
- The bishop shall designate a victim assistance coordinator who shall minister to the victim, victim’s family or other persons affected. The victim assistance coordinator shall identify professional and other resources and make them available to aid in the care of a victim or other person(s) affected.
- The victim assistance coordinator shall make certain that persons recommended to victims/survivors and their families for counseling and/or spiritual direction are highly qualified for such assistance.
- The board will advise the bishop in his assessment of allegations of sexual abuse of minors by persons acting in the name of the Church, and in his determination of suitability for ministry, employment, or other service to the Church. (Cf. USCCB , §4A)
- The board may review these matters both retrospectively and prospectively and give advice on all aspects of responses required in connection with these cases. In the case of a cleric, and if warranted, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is notified. Following the notification, the Promoter of Justice will proceed as instructed by the bishop in accord with directives from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, unless the Congregation calls the case to itself. (Cf. USCCB §8A)
- The board shall periodically review diocesan policy and procedures for dealing with these allegations in order to recommend to the bishop any modifications, as appropriate. (Cf. USCCB , §4B)
- The review board established and appointed by the bishop, shall be composed of at least five persons of outstanding integrity and good judgment. The majority of the review board members shall be lay persons who are not in the employ of the Diocese; but at least one member should be a priest, and at least one member should have particular expertise in the treatment of sexual abuse of minors. It is desirable that the Promoter of Justice participate in the board meetings of the review board. (Cf. USCCB , §5)
- The members shall be appointed for a term of five years, which can be renewed. The Bishop shall designate one member as chairperson and another as vice chairperson for two year terms, which can be renewed. The chairperson will ordinarily convene and preside at meetings and the vice chairperson will perform these duties when the chairperson is unable to do so.
- The board shall conduct its business at meetings, located at diocesan administrative offices, which will be scheduled to occur as often as necessary to perform its duties. The meetings shall reflect the pastoral character of this process which is consultative and advisory, not adversarial and adjudicative. They are not hearings. They are sessions at which the board receives and considers information, deliberates, and formulates its determinations and recommendations.
- Board members shall not receive compensation for their services, but may be reimbursed for necessary expenses.
II. TO GUARANTEE RESPONSE TO ALLEGATIONS OF SEXUAL
ABUSE OF MINORS
- The diocese will comply with all applicable civil laws, state and local, with respect to reporting allegations of sexual abuse of a minor.
- The diocese will cooperate fully with public authorities about reporting when the person is no longer a minor.
- In every instance, the victim assistance coordinator will advise victims of their right to make a report to public authorities and will support this right.
- The allegation shall be reported promptly to the public authorities, and the diocese shall cooperate in their investigation in accord with the law of the jurisdiction in question, and shall cooperate with public authorities about reporting in cases when the person is no longer a minor.
- The person making the allegation shall be provided with a written statement containing information about the right to make a report of such allegations to public authorities and the diocese’s support of this right.
- The Bishop, upon receiving an allegation of sexual abuse of a minor, shall appoint a delegate who will conduct the investigation.
- The delegate shall report the allegation to the victim assistance coordinator.
- The delegate shall inform the accused and request his/her response.
- When allegations are made of sexual misconduct or child abuse involving lay employees and volunteers of the diocese, contact by the bishop’s appointed victim assistance coordinator with the alleged victim and family should be promptly initiated. Each reported incident shall immediately be investigated with a high level of Christian care, concern, and confidentiality for the alleged victim, the family of the alleged victim, the person reporting the incident, and the alleged perpetrator, with care taken not to interfere with any civil investigation.
- The delegate shall determine whether the safety of children requires the immediate withdrawal of the accused from his/her assignment and communicate a recommendation to the bishop.
- In making such determinations and recommendations, the delegate shall consult with the bishop, who shall determine if the review board should be consulted.
- If, as a result of a preliminary investigation of the incident, the allegation appears to be of substance, the alleged perpetrator will be immediately relieved of responsibilities to the diocese and placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of the internal and any civil investigation – such leave to be with or without pay or benefits as determined by the vicar general.
- Any non-clergy employee/volunteer of the diocese who admits to, does not contest, or is found guilty of an incident of sexual misconduct or child abuse shall be immediately terminated from employment and any position of responsibility within the Diocese.
- When an allegation of sexual abuse of a minor is received, a preliminary investigation, in harmony with canon and civil law will be initiated and conducted promptly and objectively.
- Care will always be taken to protect the rights of all parties involved, particularly those of the person claiming to have been sexually abused and the person against whom the charge has been made. However, it is important for all diocesan lay employees and volunteers to know that both secular law and canon law provide penalties for the crime of falsehood in which individuals become victims of false accusation and slander. When the accusation has proved to be unfounded, every step possible will be taken to restore the good name of the person falsely accused.
- Appropriate records of each incident reported, and of the investigation and the results thereof, will be kept in the office of the diocese, with access thereto limited to the bishop, vicar general, chancellor, and the diocesan attorney.
- Any media contact or inquiries regarding an incident of sexual abuse of a minor by any diocesan cleric, seminarian, lay employee or volunteer, must be directed to the person designated by the bishop, as his official spokesperson.
- The Bishop, upon receiving an allegation of sexual abuse of a minor by a priest or deacon, shall appoint a delegate who will conduct the investigation.
- The delegate shall immediately report the allegation to the victim assistance coordinator.
- The delegate shall inform the cleric and request his response.
- When an allegation of sexual abuse of a minor by a cleric received, a preliminary investigation, in harmony with canon law will be initiated and conducted promptly and objectively.
- The delegate shall determine whether the safety of children requires the immediate withdrawal of the cleric from his ministerial assignment and promptly communicate a recommendation to the bishop.
- In making such determinations and recommendations, the delegate shall consult with the bishop. The bishop should consult the review board, and other persons as appropriate.
- The alleged offender may be requested to seek, and may be urged voluntarily to comply with, an appropriate medical and psychological evaluation at a facility mutually acceptable to the diocese and to the accused.
- Care shall always be taken to protect the rights of all parties involved, particularly those of the person claiming to have been sexually abused and the person against whom the charge has been made.
- When the accusation has proved to be unfounded, every step possible shall be taken by all involved to restore the good name of the person falsely accused.
- When sexual abuse of a minor by a cleric is admitted or is established after an appropriate process in accord with canon law, an offending cleric will be offered professional assistance for his own healing and well-being, as well as for the purpose of prevention.
- In every case involving canonical penalties, the processes provided for in canon law must be observed. For the sake of due process, the accused is to be encouraged to retain the assistance of civil and canonical counsel. When necessary, the diocese will supply canonical counsel.
- Also provided for in canon law are the following: A request by the cleric for dispensation from the obligation of holy orders and the loss of the clerical state or a request by the bishop for dismissal from the clerical state even without the consent of the cleric may be made.
- If the penalty of dismissal from the clerical state has not been applied, the offender ought to lead a life of prayer and penance. He will not be permitted to celebrate Mass publicly or to administer the sacraments. He is to be instructed not to wear clerical garb or to present himself publicly as a cleric.
- At all times, the bishop has the executive power of governance, through an administrative act, to remove an offending cleric from office, to remove or restrict his faculties, and to limit his exercise of priestly ministry. Because sexual abuse of a minor is a crime in all jurisdictions in the United States, for the sake of the common good and observing the provisions of canon law, the bishop shall exercise this power of governance to ensure that any cleric who has committed even one act of sexual abuse of a minor as described above shall not continue in active ministry.
Code of Conduct
- The diocese shall make clear to clerics and all members of the community the standards of conduct for clergy and other persons in positions of trust with regard to sexual abuse.
- This Code of Conduct shall be completed, published, and implemented forthwith.
- Education and professional development shall be mandated for all who are affected by this code.
- The code of conduct shall establish standards that govern the behavior and conduct for all clerics.
- The diocese shall make clear to all non-clergy personnel and volunteers, and all members of the community, the standards of conduct for persons in positions of trust with regard to sexual abuse.
- The education committee shall also establish guidelines for appropriate and inappropriate behavior for all diocesan non-clergy personnel and volunteers, and parents and children who participate in events/activities that involve minors, i.e., field trips, retreats, youth rallies, athletic events, overnight events, other travel, etc.
- Persons in violation of the code of conduct shall be subject to disciplinary action, up to and including dismissal.
- Within the confines of respect for privacy and the reputation of the individuals involved, the diocese shall deal as openly as possible with members of the community. This is especially so with regard to assisting and supporting parish communities directly affected by ministerial misconduct affecting minors.
- Any media contact or inquiries regarding an incident of sexual abuse of a minor by diocesan personnel must be directed to the person designated by the bishop as spokesperson for the diocese.
- The diocesan spokesperson shall develop a policy/procedures for a communications plan to deal with the media.
- The elements of this plan shall include, but not be limited to:
+ Developing a pro-active stance.
+ Developing a clear and consistent message to be conveyed through the media.
+ Emphasizing concern for victims.
+ Utilizing diocesan media.
+ Maintaining overall diocesan relationship to the media.
Office of Child and Youth Protection
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has established an Office of Child and Youth Protection at their national headquarters in Washington, D.C.
The tasks of this office include:
- Assisting individual dioceses/eparchies in the implementation of “safe environment” programs.
- Assisting provinces and regions in the development of appropriate mechanisms to audit adherence to safe environment policies.
- Producing an annual public report on the progress made in implementing the standards of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Charter.
- The programs shall provide for cooperation with parents, civil authorities, educators, and community organizations to provide education and training for children, youth, parents, clerics, diocesan lay employees/volunteers, and others about ways to make and maintain a safe environment for children.
- The committee shall involve the services and resources of those involved in ministry to minors, i.e., Office of Black Catholic Ministry, Child Nutrition Services, Office of Catholic Service Center, Office of Family Life, Office of Religious Education, Office of Youth Ministry, Office of Catholic Schools, Office of Seminarians, Deaf Apostolate, etc.
- The program shall identify selected personnel for training whose ministry involves contact with minors, or touches the lives of children.
- Once professionally trained and educated, these “trainers” are qualified to train and educate all other diocesan clergy, seminarians, non-clergy employees, and volunteers who have contact with minors.
- The program shall provide for the use of all available resources, professional as well as voluntary programs, i.e., Boy Scouts of America, etc., as needed.
- The education and training program shall provide opportunities for education and training through established annual personnel meetings, regional meetings, local meetings, and other special meetings.
- The program shall include recommendations for the mandated number of education/training hours for newly hired personnel/volunteers, as well as for the mandated number of annual hours for current personnel who have any contact with minors.
- The program shall also include requirements for provisions of continuous education/training hours for all diocesan personnel involved in safe environment programs in the future.
- A system of certification, verification, tracking, and record keeping shall also be developed and implemented.
- A schedule/timeline for implementation of the program shall be developed.
- In addition to training and education of personnel, the committee for education/training for a safe environment for children shall develop a program for educating and training children, youth, and parents.
- The clergy council shall review the current policies on evaluation and screening candidates for ordination and make recommendations to the bishop for any revisions necessary for the policy to conform to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ charter on a safe environment for children.
- The clergy council shall review current policies and established standards and procedures for any clergy seeking incardination and for the use of incardinated priests for parish or organizational ministries. The council shall recommend to the bishop any revisions necessary for the policy to conform to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ charter on a safe environment for children.
- The Safe Environment Committee, under the direction of the vicar general, shall recommend to the bishop, procedures for the screening and evaluation of prospective candidates for employment, as well as all current employees within the diocese, who come in contact with minors.
- The Safe Environment Committee shall review all diocesan employee/volunteer manuals and policies to insure that these policies conform to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ charter on a safe environment for children.
- The Safe Environment Committee shall develop a system of certification, verification, and record keeping to insure compliance with established procedures.
- Provisions shall be made for all diocesan personnel; clergy, non-clergy and volunteers, to comply with the following mandates, as they apply:
+ Required profiles for volunteers.
+ Required applications for future employees.
+ Mandated criminal background checks of new and current employees whose job/ministry involves contact with youth.
+ Mandated criminal background checks of new and current volunteers whose service involves
contact with youth.
+ Mandated personal reference checks for all new employees and volunteers.
+ Mandated reference checks of former employers for all new employees.
+Mandated requirement for all current and future employees to sign the diocesan policy
statement/questionnaire on “Abuse and Neglect of Minors”.
Transfer of Clergy
Cooperation With Religious Communities