A recent report on the causes and context of sexual abuse by priests in the United States affirmed the steps Catholic dioceses in the U.S. have taken to prevent abuse. The report, released May 18 by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice of the City University of New York, encouraged church leaders to continue their efforts to deny abusers "the opportunity to abuse."
The Diocese of Rochester has a number of efforts in place in order to prevent the abuse of children, especially children and youths, and to respond to allegations of abuse. These efforts are guided by the following key principles:
- Respond promptly to all allegations of abuse where there is reasonable belief that abuse has occurred.
- If such an allegation is supported by sufficient evidence, remove ministerial privileges from the alleged offender promptly and refer him for appropriate medical evaluation and intervention.
- Comply with the obligations of civil law for reporting an incident and cooperating with any official investigation.
- Reach out to the victims and their families, and communicate sincere commitment to their spiritual and emotional well-being.
- Within the confines of respect for privacy of the individuals involved, deal as openly as possible with the members of the community.
In order to follow these principles, diocesan officials established a Diocesan Review Board comprising medical and law-enforcement experts who offer guidance in responding to allegations. The diocese also appointed a victims’ assistance coordinator, who receives complaints and organizes assistance for victims. The diocese also has instituted policies intended to prevent sexual abuse and harassment, and has provided related training to all clerics, employees and volunteers.
The diocese reports contemporary and past allegations of abuse to the appropriate civil authorities, which has sometimes resulted in the arrests, trials and convictions of diocesan priests. Diocesan officials also have reviewed past responses in individual cases and, when appropriate, removed offenders from public ministry. Diocesan leaders also have worked to develop open, working relationships with law-enforcement officials throughout the diocese’s 12-county region, and strengthened the screening process for men seeking admission to the seminary or the diocesan deacon-formation program.
The diocese also has implemented background checks and training for more than 25,000 clerics, educators, employees and volunteers — as well as thousands of young people in Catholic schools and religious-education programs — through its Creating a Safe Environment program and it’s new retraining program, Safe and Sacred. Diocesan leaders have developed codes of conduct and educated clerics, educators, employees and volunteers about how those codes apply in certain settings. Those codes may be found at www.dor.org.
The diocese publicizes contact information for its victims’ assistance coordinator and requires all educators, employees and volunteers to receive training on the process of reporting allegations. Diocesan leaders also encourage any abuse victims or parents of victims to report allegations to law-enforcement authorities and seek assistance.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Victims of abuse should always report to the civil authorities. To report a case of possible sexual abuse and to receive help and guidance from the Diocese of Rochester, victims are encouraged to contact the victims’ assistance coordinator appointed by Bishop Clark: Barbara Pedeville, 585-328-3210, ext. 1215, 1-800-388-7177, ext. 1215 (toll free), or firstname.lastname@example.org.