Tuesday, May 13, 2014
Check Ups for Protecting Children: The Diocesan Audit Results
By Francesco Cesareo, Ph.D
Chair, National Review Board
The results of the Catholic Church’s efforts to protect children are evident in the annual diocesan audits. Each diocese is audited on site every three years and submits a paper audit the other two years. This holds each bishop accountable for child safety in his diocese, and ensures that reconciliation and healing opportunities are in place for victims.
Audit findings have verified that the bishops are meeting with past victims of child sexual abuse to offer comfort and assistance to them and their families. Each diocese has in place a Victim Assistance Coordinator that is available to help. Dioceses are hosting Healing Masses, retreats and reconciliation events for victims/survivors. Many survivors are reconciled with the Church.
Dioceses also have Safe Environment Coordinators who assure the ongoing compliance to the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People. Dioceses have trained more than 1.9 million clergy, educators, employees, volunteers parishes in how to create safe environments and to recognize abuse. They have prepared more than 4.6 million children to recognize abuse and protect themselves.
Background evaluations are conducted regularly on Church personnel and volunteers who have contact with children. The diocese have run criminal history checks on more than 2,000,000 volunteers and employees, 167,953 educators, 52,215 clerics, and 6,360 candidates for ordination.
All candidates for the seminary, whether through the diocese or a religious order, are required to have intensive background screening as well as psychological testing before acceptance at the seminary. Each diocese and religious order has developed a Code of Conduct spelling out what is acceptable and unacceptable behavior. This serves to let people know what can and cannot be done as well as letting other observers and co-workers know what behavior can be expected. It encourages the reporting of suspicious behavior.
There is a Zero Tolerance policy on abusers since 2002. When even a single act of sexual abuse by a priest or deacon is admitted or is established after an appropriate process in accord with canon law, the offending priest or deacon is to be removed permanently from ecclesiastical ministry. About 5,840 clerics have been removed from ministry based on credible allegations dating back to 1950.
Francesco Cesareo, Ph.D., is president of Assumption College, Worcester, Massachusetts. He is in his first year as Chairman of the National Review Board, a lay body that collaborates with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to prevent sexual abuse of minors by persons in the service of the Church.