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Diocese of Gaylord Policy for the Protection of Children

Revised March 2015

A. Preamble

The Diocese of Gaylord has zero tolerance for child sexual abuse which includes the acquisition, possession, and distribution of child pornography, in accord with the latest Charter revision. Any form of sexual abuse, sexual misconduct, sexual impropriety or sexual exploitation of a child, male or female, will not be condoned or tolerated. 1,2 

Church leaders are in positions of public trust and influence. They are expected to carry out responsibilities, including ministry, mission, and a way of life, in an appropriate manner. Church leaders are expected to abide by all laws and ethics codes related to personal misconduct and comply with this policy.

B. Purpose

The purpose of this policy is to address sexual abuse of minors to include individuals who habitually  lack the use of reason, by those who are leaders in the Church, persons in its employ or persons acting as Church volunteers. The Church is committed to care for the well-being of those who bring such matters to its attention as victims, others who know of the abuse, and also to any clergy, religious and lay persons who are accused of any sexual abuse. Through this policy the Church intends to respond promptly to allegations of sexual abuse of minors.

C. Reporting Allegations of Child Abuse or Neglect

Any cleric, religious, employee, school counselor, teacher, administrator or other person acting with the authority of the Church of the Diocese of Gaylord who has reasonable cause to suspect child abuse or neglect of a minor shall comply with State reporting requirements, specifically the Michigan Child Protection Law 3, except for those communications that are canonically privileged. Notification by staff member to the person in charge of a church, school or other diocesan entity does not relieve the member of the staff of said church, school or entity of the obligation from reporting under the Michigan Child Protection Law. 

In addition to the legal reporting requirements adopted herein, the Diocese of Gaylord will maintain an assistance coordinator to receive reports of sexual abuse concerning any cleric, religious, employee, or other person acting with the authority of the Church of the Diocese. The dedicated telephone number is available to receive such reports: 989.705.9010.

The assistance coordinator shall be specifically trained in the dynamics of child abuse, the civil and canon law relating to the same, and Church policies concerning sexual abuse. 

Any report of suspected child or neglect of a minor received by any cleric, religious, employee, school counselor, teacher, administrator, or other person acting with the authority of the Church of the Diocese shall be immediately referred to the civil authorities in compliance with the Michigan Child Protection Law and a written report shall be filed by the reporting person within 72 hours of receiving the oral report. The assistance coordinator of the Diocese shall also be promptly notified of the allegation, except for those communications that are canonically privileged.

D.  Action by the Bishop 

When an allegation of suspected child abuse or neglect is made against any cleric, religious, employee, school counselor, teacher, administrator, or other person acting with the authority of the Church of the Diocese of Gaylord, the Bishop may: 

  • Decree an administrative leave, or advise the individual’'s supervisor to temporarily remove the accused from his/her position, with or without pay, pending the resolution of the allegation; 
  • Determine the residence of the accused (if the accused is a member of the clergy);
  • Recommend that the accused retain civil and/or canonical legal representation of his or her own choosing and expense;
  • Request an evaluation and/or treatment; 
  • Consult with canonical and civil authorities so that questions can be addressed;
  • If the accused does not cooperate, the bishop may inform the person of his or her canonical status, the bishop’s intentions and consequences thereof; 
  • Take other actions as deemed appropriate.

E. Bishop’s Review Board on Sexual Abuse

The Bishop shall maintain a Review Board to respond to allegations regarding sexual abuse of children. 
The Review Board, to be appointed by the Bishop in consultation with the Diocesan Pastoral Council and the Presbyteral Council, shall consist of at least 5 members who are in full communion with the Roman Catholic Church. One member of this Review Board should be a priest who is a respected pastor of the Diocese of Gaylord, and at least one member should have expertise in the treatment of the sexual abuse of children. The majority of the Review Board should be comprised of lay persons. The members will be appointed for a term of five years which can be renewed.

F. Response by Bishop’s Review Board on Sexual Abuse

Evaluation of the allegation. When an allegation of sexual abuse of a minor is received, an investigation in harmony with canon law will be conducted promptly and objectively. The Review Board will advise the Bishop in his assessment of the allegations and in his determination of suitability for ministry. The board can review these matters both retrospectively and prospectively and give advice on all aspects of responses required in connection with these cases. An investigator, who is specially trained in the civil law, canon law and methods of investigating such allegations will assist the Review Board. The investigator shall:

Determine if the matter has been reported to the civil authorities or agencies regarding the allegations; 
Collect whatever information is available from other authorities or agencies regarding the allegation;
Conduct an investigation into the allegation by contacting the alleged victim, accused, and other persons with information or knowledge of the matter (provided said contact does not interfere with any ongoing criminal investigation) to determine the facts; 

Forward a status report to the Review Board within 14 days of receiving the allegation and within 30 days of receiving the allegation, the investigator shall provide a final report regarding the claim to the Review Board, with a recommendation of credible or not credible, unless good cause may be shown for extending the investigation.

Action by the Bishop’s Review Board:

  • If the investigator recommends that the claim is “not credible,” the Review Board shall review the same and either accept, reject or request further investigation. If accepted, the Review Board shall refer the matter to the Bishop with its recommendations. 
  • If the investigator recommends that the claim is “credible”, the Review Board shall review the same and either accept, reject or request further investigation. If accepted, the Review Board shall refer the matter to the Bishop with its recommendations concerning assistance to the victim, the accused and others affected.

Upon receipt of a report from the investigator: 

G. Action by the Bishop

Within 14 days of receiving the report from the Review Board the Bishop may:

When a credible allegation is against a member of a religious community, the Bishop will inform the Superior of the Order. When a credible allegation is against a diocesan priest or deacon, the bishop may do any of the following:

  • Request further investigation to be completed in a timely manner; 
  • Decree an administrative leave with or without pay for the person pending the resolution of the allegation and determine status of faculties; 
  • Determine the residence of the accused; 
  • Recommend that the accused retain civil and/or canonical legal representation of his or her own choosing and expense; 
  • Request an evaluation and/or treatment; 
  • Consult with canonical and civil authorities so that questions can be addressed.


If the accused does not cooperate, the bishop will inform the person of his or her canonical status, the bishop’s intentions and consequences thereof. 

When sexual abuse of a minor by a priest or a deacon is admitted or is established after appropriate investigation in accord with canon law, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith shall be notified and the offending priest or deacon will be removed from ministry.4,5,6 This includes even a single act of sexual abuse of a minor, past, present or future. That is: He will not be permitted to celebrate Sacraments or minister publicly, to wear clerical garb, or to present himself as clergy. In some cases, the priest or deacon may request laicization or the Bishop may seek the penalty of dismissal from the clerical state.

When there is sufficient evidence that sexual abuse of a minor by a priest or deacon has occurred, the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith shall be notified. 

If the credible allegation is against a staff member, employee, or other person acting with the authority of the Church, within 14 days of receiving the report, the Bishop will inform the appropriate supervisor and advise the supervisor to remove the accused from his or her assignment or position and place him or her on leave with or without pay. The bishop may also do any of the following: 

  • Request further investigation; 
  • Recommend that the accused retain civil and/or canonical legal representation of his or her own choosing and expense;
  • Request an evaluation and/or treatment; 
  • Consult with canonical and civil authorities so that questions can be addressed;

Public communications and media.

The Bishop, Director of Communications, or other person assigned by the Bishop will respond to any media inquiries made of the Diocese or institutions thereof.

Follow up care:

The Diocese of Gaylord will assist in the pastoral and professional care, both immediate and ongoing, of the victim and others affected in consultation with the Review Board,

The Diocese of Gaylord may request ongoing treatment and evaluation of the accused.

When the charge of an accused cleric is found credible, if the cleric moves from the diocese, a letter is sent to the receiving diocese with the name and address of that cleric now in their diocese.  Bishop’s office along with the Safe Environment Coordinator will continually monitor the location of the accused cleric on a yearly basis.

H.  Amendment

This policy can only be amended by the Bishop of the Diocese of Gaylord in consultation with the Bishop’s Sexual Misconduct Review Board, the Diocesan Pastoral Council and the Presbyteral Council.

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1. “Child” and “Minor” means a person who is less than 18 years of age and is not emancipated by operation of law. (MSA 28.342a)

2. Sexual abuse of a minor includes sexual molestation or sexual exploitation of a minor and other behavior by which an adult uses a minor as an object of sexual gratification. Sexual abuse has been defined by different civil authorities in various ways. The Essential Norms for Diocesan/Eparchial Policies Dealing with Allegations of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Priests or Deacons do not adopt any particular definition provided in civil law. Rather, the transgressions in question relate to obligations arising from divine commands regarding human sexual interaction as conveyed to us by the sixth commandment of the Decalogue (CIC, c. 1395 §2, CCEO, c. 1453 §1). Thus, the norm to be considered in assessing an allegation of sexual abuse of a minor is whether conduct or interaction with a minor qualifies as an external, objectively grave violation of the sixth commandment (USCCB, Canonical Delicts Involving Sexual Misconduct and Dismissal from the Clerical State, 1995, p. 6). A canonical offense against the sixth commandment of the Decalogue (CIC, c. 1395 §2; CCEO, c. 1453 §1) need not be a complete act of intercourse. Nor, to be objectively grave, does an act need to involve force, physical contact, or a discernible harmful outcome. Moreover, “imputability” [moral responsibility] for a canonical offense is presumed upon external violation ... unless it is otherwise apparent” (CIC, c. 1321 §3; CCEO, c. 1414 §2). Cf. CIC, cc. 1322-1327, and CCEO, cc. 1413, 1415, and 1416. If there is any doubt about whether a specific act fulfills this definition, the writings of recognized moral theologians should be consulted and the opinion of a recognized expert be obtained (Canonical Delicts, p. 6). Ultimately, it is the responsibility of the diocesan bishop/eparch, with the advice of a qualified review board, to determine the gravity of the alleged act.

3. Michigan Child Protection Law [Act 238 of 1975, as amended].

4 In every case involving canonical penalties, the processes provided for in canon law must be observed, and the various provisions of canon law must be considered (cf. Canonical Delicts Involving Sexual Misconduct and Dismissal from the Clerical State, 1995; Letter from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, May 18, 2001). Unless the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, having been notified, calls the case to itself because of special circumstances, it will direct the diocesan bishop/eparch to proceed (Article 13, “Procedural Norms” for Motu proprio Sacramentorum sanctitatis tutela, AAS, 93, 2001, p. 787). If the case would otherwise be barred by prescription, because sexual abuse of a minor is a grave offense, the bishop/eparch shall apply to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith for a dispensation from the prescription, while indicating appropriate pastoral reasons. 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/eparchy will supply canonical counsel to a priest. The provisions of CIC, canon 1722, or CCEO, canon 1473, shall be implemented during the pendency of the penal process.

If the penalty of dismissal from the clerical state has not been applied (e.g., reasons of advanced age or infirmity), 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 priest.

5. At all times, the diocesan 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 by a cleric is a crime in the universal law of the Church (CIC, c. 1395 §2; CCEO, c. 1453 §1) and 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 diocesan bishop shall exercise this power of governance to ensure that any priest who has committed even one act of sexual abuse of a minor as described above shall not continue in active ministry.

6. No priest or deacon who has committed an act of sexual abuse of a minor may be transferred for ministerial assignment to another diocese/eparchy or religious province. Before a priest or deacon can be transferred for residence to another diocese/eparchy or religious province, his bishop/eparch or religious ordinary shall forward, in a confidential manner, to the local bishop/eparch and religious ordinary (if applicable) of the proposed place of residence any and all information concerning any act of sexual abuse of a minor and any other information indicating that he has been or may be a danger to children or young people. This shall apply even if the priest or deacon will reside in the local community of an institute of consecrated life or society of apostolic life (or, in the Eastern Churches, as a monk or other religious, in a society of common life according to the manner of religious, in a secular institute, or in another form of consecrated life or society of apostolic life). Every bishop/eparch or religious ordinary who receives a priest or deacon from outside his jurisdiction will obtain the necessary information regarding any past act of sexual abuse of a minor by the priest or deacon in question.

Ten Points to Protect Children

By Teresa M. Kettelkamp, Executive Director
USCCB, Secretariat of Child and Youth Protection

  1. Sexual molestation is about the victim. Many people are affected when a priest abuses a minor, but the individual most impacted is the victim who has suffered a violation of trust that can affect his or her entire life. The abuser, the family of the abused, and the parish community are all affected by this sin and crime, but the primary person of concern must be the victim.
  2. No one has the right to have access to children. If people wish to volunteer for the church, for example, in a parish or school, they must follow diocesan guidelines on background checks, safe environment training, policies and procedures, and codes of conduct. No one, no matter who they are, has an automatic right to be around children or young people who are in the care of the church without proper screening and without following the rules.
  3. Common sense is not all that common. It is naive to presume that people automatically know boundaries so organizations and families have to spell them out. For example, no youth minister, cleric or other adult leader should be in a child’s bedroom, alone with the child.
  4. Child sexual abuse can be prevented. Awareness that child sexual abuse exists and can exist anywhere is a start. It is then critical to build safety barriers around children and young people to keep them from harm. These barriers come in the form of protective guardians, codes of conduct, background evaluations, policies and procedures, and safety training programs.
  5. The residual effects of having been abused can last a lifetime. Those who have been abused seldom “just get over it.” The sense of violation goes deep into a person’s psyche and feelings of anger, shame, hurt and betrayal can build long after the abuse has taken place. Some have even described the feeling as if it has “scarred their soul.”
  6. Feeling heard leads toward healing. Relief from hurt and anger often comes when one feels heard, when one’s pain and concerns are taken seriously, and a victim/survivor’s appropriate sense of rage and indignation are acknowledged. Not being acknowledged contributes to a victim’s sense of being invisible, unimportant and unworthy; they are in some way “revictimized.”
  7. You cannot always predict who will be an abuser. Experience shows that most abuse is at the hands of someone who has gained the trust of a victim/survivor and his/her family. Most abuse also occurs in the family setting. Sometimes the “nicest person in the world” is an abuser, and this “niceness” enables a false sense of trust to be created between abuser and abused.
  8. There are behavioral warning signs of child abusers. Training and education help adults recognize grooming techniques that are precursors to abuse. Some abusers isolate a potential victim by giving him or her undue attention or lavish gifts. Another common grooming technique is to allow young people to participate in activities which their parents or guardians would not approve, such as watching pornography, drinking alcohol, using drugs, and excessive touching, which includes wrestling and tickling.  It is also critical to be wary of age-inappropriate relationships, seen, for example, in the adult who is more comfortable with children than fellow adults. Parishes can set up rules to guide interaction between adults and children.
  9. People can be taught to identify grooming behavior –which are the actions which abusers take to project the image that they are kind, generous, caring people, while their intent is to lure a minor into an inappropriate relationship. An abuser may develop a relationship with the family to increase his credibility. Abusers might show attention to the child by talking to him/her, being friendly, sharing alcohol with a minor and giving the child “status” by insinuating that the child is their favorite or “special person.” Offenders can be patient and may “groom” their victim, his or her family, or community for years.
  10. Background checks work. Background checks in churches, schools and other organizations keep predators away from children both because they scare off some predators and because they uncover past actions which should ban an adult from working or volunteering with children. If an adult has had difficulty with some boundaries that society sets, such as not driving while intoxicated or not disturbing the public peace, he or she may have difficulties with other boundaries, such as not hurting a child. Never forget that offenders lie.