Safeguarding our Children
Policy for Sexual Abuse
Eparchy of Newton Policy of Sexual Abuse of Minors By Priests or Deacons
As Christians and as Melkite-Greek Catholics, we consider the welfare and protection of our children a sacred responsibility. The Particular Law of the Eparchy of Newton and The Melkite Greek Catholic Church, promulgated in 1999, contains reference to a detailed policy regarding reports of inappropriate behavior of the clergy. Both the policy statement and procedures have been in force since 1995 and have been implemented by the Eparchy of Newton. It is now being revised in the light of the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, Revised Edition, approved by the American Catholic Bishops in Washington, D.C. in November 2002. These Eparchial norms are an implementation of Essential norms for Diocesan/Eparchial Policies Dealing with Allegations of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Priests or Deacons approved by the Congregation for Bishops on December 8, 2002.
- All cases of alleged or suspected or known child abuse committed by a cleric will be immediately reported to civil authorities. Any cleric, who knows from the external forum that a minor has been sexually abused, is required to report the knowledge or suspicion to civil authorities. Allegations of sexual abuse will also be immediately reported to the eparchial bishop.
When an allegation of sexual abuse of a minor by a priest or deacon is received, a preliminary investigation in harmony with canon law will be initiated and conducted promptly and objectively (CCEO, c. 1468). The purpose of the eparchial investigation is to ensure that the bishop has a complete, thorough, and accurate report of the alleged incident. The investigation will be conducted by an investigator appointed by the eparch in consultation with the review board. The investigator will report his findings to the bishop and to the review board. The accused will immediately be called by the eparchial chancery and made aware of the allegation against him and the identity of the accuser. The accused will remain in his position until the initial investigation is completed. All appropriate steps shall be taken to protect the reputation of the accused during the investigation. The accused will be encouraged to retain the assistance of civil and canonical counsel and will be promptly notified of the results of the investigation.
When there is sufficient evidence that sexual abuse of a minor has occurred, the eparchial bishop will notify the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith. The eparchial bishop shall then apply the precautionary measures mentioned in CCEO, canon 1473 – that is, remove the alleged offender from the sacred ministry or from any ecclesiastical office or function. The bishop may impose or prohibit residence in a given place or territory, and prohibit the public participation in the Most Holy Eucharist pending the outcome of the process. In every case involving canonical penalties, the processes provided for in canon law will be observed, and the various provisions of canon law will be considered. (cf. Canonical Delicts Involving Sexual Misconduct and Dismissal form the Clerical State, 1995; Letter from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, May 18, 2001). Unless the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, having been notified, calls the case to itself because of special circumstances, the eparchial bishop will follow the directions of the Congregation on how to proceed (Article 13, “Procedural Norms” for Moto 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 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 encouraged to retain the assistance of civil and canonical counsel. When necessary, the eparchy will supply canonical counsel to a priest. The Eparchy will conduct a judicial process of the case according to the appropriate canons and practice of the Church. 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 eparchy and the accused.
The Eparchy will comply with all applicable civil laws with respect to the reporting of sexual abuse of minors to civil authorities and will cooperate in their investigation. In every instance, the Eparchy will advise and support a person’s right to make a report to public authorities.
The healing of victims, their families and their community from the effects of sexual abuse by church leaders begins when the allegations of such abuse are received. Victims of sexual abuse experience a profound sense of loss and betrayal by someone from whom they had the right to expect protection and guidance. This is even more true when the offender represents spiritual authority and one’s connection with God. As a result, victims frequently have difficulty trusting others, fearful that they will be blamed for the abusive acts. Therefore, when victims decide to disclose the abuse, it is important that the response they receive is compassionate and non-judgmental. Anyone receiving an allegation of abuse will respond in a pastoral, supportive manner, leaving investigative concerns to those who serve in that role. An allegation will be received without initial judgment as to the truth of the complaint. No intimation of blame will be made by the initial recipient of information. Individuals making allegations will be supported positively in their decision to disclose.
The eparch will designate a competent person to coordinate assistance for the immediate pastoral care of persons who claim to have been sexually abused when they were minors by priests or deacons. This “assistance-coordinator” will assess and respond to the immediate and long-term needs of the alleged victim and family, the alleged offender, parish communities and others that are affected by the disclosure of sex abuse. The assistance-coordinator will serve as a consultant to the eparchial bishop and the review board regarding the treatment needs of clients.
No cleric removed from an eparchial position for allegations of sexual abuse of a minor will return to ministry or service before their case is assessed and his fitness is determined by the bishop in consultation with the review board.
The safety of children is the paramount consideration governing the formation of recommendations regarding the future ministry of one accused of abuse.
An allegation of sexual abuse of a minor made against a cleric will be deemed established if, with due respect for the provisions of canon law: The accused individual admits to conduct defined by this policy as sexual abuse. A civil court of criminal law finds the accused guilty of a crime that consists of conduct defined by this policy as sexual abuse, or the accused pleads guilty or no contest to a crime that consists of conduct defined by this policy as sexual abuse. The appropriate church tribunal finds the accused guilty of the crime. 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 will be removed permanently from ecclesiastical ministry, not excluding dismissal from the clerical state, if the case so warrants.
If the penalty of dismissal from the clerical state has not been applied (e.g., for reasons of advanced age or infirmity), the offender ought to lead a life of prayer and penance. He will not be permitted to celebrate the Divine Liturgy publicly or to administer the Sacred Mysteries. He will be instructed not to wear clerical garb, or present himself publicly as a priest. At all times, the eparchial bishop has the executive power of clerical governance, through an administrative act, to remove an offending cleric form 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 eparchial bishop shall exercise this power of governance to ensure that any priest who has committed even one act of sexual abuse or a minor as described above shall not continue in the active ministry.
The priest or deacon may at any time request a dispensation form the obligations of the clerical state. In exceptional cases, the eparchial bishop may request of the Holy Father the dismissal of the priest or deacon form the clerical state ex officio, even without the consent of the priest or deacon. 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.
When an accusation has proved to be unfounded, every step possible will be taken by the bishop to restore the good name of the priest or deacon falsely accused. No priest or deacon who has committed an act of sexual abuse of a minor will be transferred for ministerial assignment to another eparchy/diocese or religious province. Before a priest or deacon is transferred for residence to another eparchy/diocese or religious province, the eparch shall forward, in a confidential manner, to the local eparch/bishop or religious ordinary 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. The eparchial bishop will not consider receiving any priest or deacon into the eparchy from another jurisdiction without previously obtaining the necessary information regarding the moral and civil record of the priest or deacon in question.
- Review Board:
- The review board is a predominantly lay board composed of a variety of professionals duly appointed to assist the bishop in a strictly confidential consultative capacity. It will have no final, decision-making authority, which authority will continue to reside exclusively with the bishop.
- Board Functions:
1. To advise the eparchial bishop in his assessment of allegations of sexual abuse of minors and in his determination of suitability for ministry;
2. To review eparchial policies for dealing with sexual abuse of minors;
3. To offer advice on all aspects of sexual abuse cases, whether retrospectively or prospectively.
- The review board, established by the eparchial bishop, will be composed of 5 members of outstanding integrity and good judgment in full communion with the Church. The majority of the board will be lay persons who are not in the employ of the eparchy. These will include: a person with particular expertise in the treatment of sexual abuse of minors; a parent; a parish priest; an attorney; an individual with investigative experience; The bishop may deem it desirable that the Promoter of Justice participate in the meetings of the review board.
- Members appointed by the eparchial bishop will serve a five-year term. All board members will adhere to the rules of strict confidentiality with regard to all deliberations and information received.
The Eparchy of Newton will publish a code of ethics and integrity in ministry to be adhered to by all the clergy and persons in positions of trust in the Eparchy. The Eparchy in cooperation with parents, civil authorities, educators and community organizations will establish and/or recommend established “safe environment” programs. These will include programs of education and training for parents, ministers, educators, and others about ways to make and maintain a safe environment for minors. All eparchial programs designed to certify clerics, eparchial employees, and volunteers who serve children on a regular basis will include segments that address child sexual abuse.
The training curriculum will include information concerning: signs and symptoms, dynamics of child abuse, impact of child abuse, intervention strategies, reporting requirements and community resources. Youth programs in Catholic parishes and institutions, that teach personal health and development or human sexuality, are to include a discussion on this topic at the appropriate age level. Concern for the innocence of youth will be paramount in any program and the guidelines issued by the Holy See found in “On the Teaching of Human Sexuality” will be adhered to rigorously.
Child abuse prevention and recognition programs will be offered and/or recommended to parents and the community at the parish level. Collaboration with local programs established by nearby dioceses of the Latin Church will be recommended.
The background of all eparchial and parish personnel who have regular contact with minors will be evaluated. Applicants for employment or volunteer work which will involve contact with children in parishes and institutions of the eparchy must provide the hiring agent personal information adequate to assess their suitability for contact with children. They must sign a waiver to conduct a criminal background check.
The Eparchy will study the psychological screening currently undertaken to assess potential candidates for the priesthood and diaconate. The tests given will be reviewed from the perspective of identifying, to the extent possible, potential problems in the area of sexuality. Problem candidates will be disqualified.
Criminal background checks will be required of all candidates for ordination to the priesthood and diaconate. A protocol or procedure is to be developed to screen clerical personnel from outside the Eparchy before an assignment is given or confirmed by the eparch to minister within the Eparchy of Newton. All applicants for service to the eparchy must present both a letter of recommendation from their bishop or Religious Superior a quo together with a recent criminal background check.
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, and these norms do not adopt any particular definition provided in civil law. Rather, the transgressions in question relate to obligations arising from divine commands regarding sexual interaction as conveyed by the sixth commandment of the Decalogue. 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 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. Ultimately, it is the responsibility of the bishop, with the advice of the review board, to determine the gravity of the alleged act. Sexual Conduct means vaginal intercourse between a male and a female, anal intercourse, fellatio, and cunnilingus between persons regardless of sex; and, without privilege to do so, the insertion, however slight, of any part of the body or any instrument, apparatus or other object into the vaginal or anal cavity of another. Sexual Contact means any touching of an erogenous zone of another, including, without limitation, the thigh, genitals, buttock, pubic region, or if the person is a female, a breast, for the purpose of sexually arousing or gratifying either person.
Supplement Policy of Sexual Abuse of Minors By Seminarians, Religious, Eparchial Employees or Regular Volunteers
The Norms listed above regarding sexual abuse of minors by priests or deacons, with the exception of those that deal specifically with priests or deacons according to canon law, are also to be applied to seminarians, Religious, eparchial employees and regular volunteers of the Eparchy. In addition, there are these following norms.
- All cases of alleged or suspected or known child abuse committed by a seminarian, Religious, eparchial employee or volunteer of the eparchy, will be immediately reported to civil authorities. Allegations of sexual abuse will also be immediately reported to the eparchial bishop.
- Besides any actions taken by the civil authorities, the Eparchy will conduct its own investigation of the alleged abuse. Based on the results of the civil disposition, the eparchy’s own investigation, and the advice of the Review Board, the eparchial bishop will determine the continued working relationship of the accused with the Eparchy. During the investigation, the accused will be relieved from his or her responsibilities, and removed from any contact with minors.
Administrators must take due precautions to assure that only persons who are psychologically and temperamentally suited are chosen to work with children. No applicant with a history of a felony or misdemeanor sex offense conviction will be considered for placement or hire. Applicants for employment or volunteer in a position with children contact in parishes and institutions of the eparchy must provide the hiring agent personal information adequate to assess their suitability for contact with minors. They must sign a waiver to conduct a criminal background check. They must supply names of three references, at least one from the most recent employer and none from close friends or relatives. And they must complete the screening interview process. Hiring agents and/or volunteer coordinators must speak with all references provided by applicants for employment and examine and verify the employment history. The hiring agent is to conduct a criminal records check of any person seeking employment or to volunteer at their facility.
Any applicant who has not lived continuously for five years in the state of the eparchial parish or institution must also provide an FBI identification record or a waiver allowing the hiring agent to obtain it. Pastors will require that any person or group who are hired through a third party contract, and who will have responsibility for the care, custody, or control of a child, must provide proof of a criminal background check.
Each parish or institution of the eparchy must establish procedures for gathering the information and completing the reference checks mentioned above. All information gathered will be retained in a confidential file at the location of employment for as long as legally required. The provisions of this policy are applicable to all agencies and institutions located within the eparchy where ministry is performed under the canonical supervision of the eparch including institutions and or centers owned and operated by exempt Religious.