In June 2002, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) established the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, a comprehensive set of procedures for addressing allegations of sexual abuse of minors and vulnerable adults by Catholic clergy. This document, drafted in Dallas during the annual spring meeting of U.S. bishops, includes guidelines for reconciliation, healing, accountability and prevention of future acts of abuse.
For the first time, this Charter established uniform, “zero tolerance” procedures for all dioceses in the United States regarding the handling of sex-abuse allegations against clergy, lay teachers in Catholic schools, parish staff members, coaches and other people who represent the Church to young people. Moreover, the Charter required that all U.S. dioceses put in place practices that would prevent abuse from occurring in the first place. The Charter is reviewed at least every seven years to ensure its practices are of the highest standards, with reviews in 2005, 2011 and 2018.
The Diocese of Gaylord has consistently implemented the Charter since its inception, following it as a strict guide. The diocese remains strongly committed to ensuring that safe environment training and protocols are in place for those serving in ministry. Both within the context of the Catholic Church and in partnership with civil law authorities, the diocese works diligently in the areas of prevention and protection, accountability and effective response to abuse allegations, and pastoral outreach and healing for victim-survivors.
In acknowledgement of this year’s twentieth anniversary of the establishment of the Charter, the Most Reverend Jeffrey J. Walsh, bishop of Gaylord, released the following statement:
“Twenty years ago, the bishops of the United States issued the ‘Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People,’ commonly referred to as the ‘Dallas Charter.’ Initially, as a priest in the Diocese of Scranton (Pennsylvania), I remember feeling shameful that such a document was indeed necessary and even more disgusted by the reality of abusive priests. As 20 years have passed, feelings of disgust have multiplied, especially in the wake of the 2018 Pennsylvania Grand Jury report and revelations of episcopal cover-ups. Recognizing that we are all sinners and in need of God’s mercy, I have learned to channel my disgust into a conviction that justice be served.
“The Dallas Charter began a serious effort on behalf of Church leadership to end the scandal of abuse and corruption. The good fruits of the Charter are born out in statistics that show a marked decrease in clergy abuse cases and increased adherence to reporting clergy abuse to civil authorities. Lay church leaders are also being held accountable. As the bishop of the Diocese of Gaylord, I, along with our Safe Environment Coordinator, Victim’s Assistant Coordinator and all clergy and staff, stand ready to continue the due diligence needed to fulfill the Catholic Church’s ‘Promise to Protect and Pledge to Heal.’
“In 2018, the Michigan Department of Attorney General (AG) launched an investigation into Catholic clergy sexual abuse throughout the State of Michigan. The Diocese of Gaylord, along with all dioceses in Michigan, have fully supported this investigative work in order that accountability be upheld. When the AG’s report from this investigation is ultimately released, there will be difficult days that follow. Trusting in God’s Providence, justice will be served to those who have abused, while faithful priests, bishops and lay leaders, with a clear conscience, continue to love and serve the people of God.”
Please join in prayer for all victim-survivors of abuse, and for their families and all who accompany them towards healing. (Click here for printable PDF of below prayer.)
Prayer for Healing for Victim-Survivors of Abuse
God of all consolation,
By your Son’s death and resurrection
the evil of this world was overcome by love.
Through your gentle protection and care,
grant to all victims of sexual abuse
healing in body, mind and soul.
Give them your grace and your peace
as they continue their journey to you.
We thank you for the courage shown by all victims,
especially those who have come forward in truth.
May their courage teach us to defend the dignity of all human life
and may the Diocese of Gaylord be ever vigilant
in providing a safe environment for all your children.
We ask this through Christ, our Lord.
To learn more about the "Dallas Charter," safe environment training, or how to report abuse, click here. The Diocese of Gaylord encourages that any allegation of inappropriate conduct, harassment or abuse by someone in the Church be reported to the Michigan Department of Attorney General at 844-324-3374 or to local law enforcement. Reports are also encouraged to be made to Church authorities by contacting the diocesan Victim Assistance Coordinator, Larry LaCross at 989-705-9010.