- Rob Westerman Safe Environment Coordinator
What has the Catholic Church Done to Address Child Abuse?
The Catholic Church has done more to protect children than almost any other organization in the United States.
- Safe Environment training is taking place in 193 dioceses/eparchies of the country. Over 2 million adults have been trained to recognize the behavior of offenders and what to do about it.
- Over 5 million children have been equipped with the skills to help them protect themselves from abuse.
- Background checks are conducted on Church personnel who have contact with children. Over 2 million volunteers and employees; 52,000 clerics; 6,205 candidates for ordination have had their backgrounds evaluated.
- All diocese/eparchies have Codes of Conduct spelling out what is acceptable behavior. This serves to let people know what can and cannot be done as well as letting others know what behavior can be expected. It encourages the reporting of suspicious behavior.
- All dioceses/eparchies have Victim Assistance Coordinators, assuring victims that they will be heard. Over $6,536,109 has been spent on therapy for the victims of clergy sexual abuse.
- All dioceses/eparchies have Safe Environment Coordinators who assure the ongoing compliance with the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.
- Bishops are meeting with victims.
- Dioceses/eparchies have Healing Masses, retreats for victim/survivors and other reconciliation events.
- There is a Zero Tolerance policy on abusers since 2002. If a credible accusation is made against a cleric, they are permanently removed from ministry regardless of how long ago the offense occurred.
- Dioceses/eparchies require intensive background screening as well as psychological testing for those wishing to enter the seminary.
- Annual compliance audits are undertaken throughout the country in each year by independent auditors to assure that the USCCB Charter and Norms are being followed by the Dioceses/eparchies.
- The John Jay College of Criminal Justice was commissioned to complete a study of the nature and scope of the problem of sexual abuse of minors by Catholic Priests and Deacons in the United States. The John Jay Report was published in 2004. (The-Nature-and-Scope-of-Sexual-Abuse-of-Minors-by-Catholic-Priests-and-Deacons-in-the-United-States-1950-2002.pdf)
- Pope Francis issues new norms, Motu Propio "Vos estis lux Mundi" ("You are the light of the world"), to combat the evil of sexual abuse by Bishops, Cardinals, Patriarchs or Legates requiring a third-party Catholic Bishop Abuse Reporting service (CBAR) to receive reports of sexual abuse.
The Catholic Church has worked hard to protect children. Much has been done but more needs to be done. Until child sexual abuse is no longer a part of society, the Church will continue its efforts to stop it.
For more information, go to the USCCB’s Office of Child and Youth Protection.