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Child Abuse and Sexual Abuse of a Child

 

Introduction: Pastoral Statement

An essential part of the mission of the Church is the promotion and protection of the rights and dignity of all people. Christian principles dictate that we have a special concern for those who are most vulnerable and those who cannot fully care for themselves.

The increase in recent years in reported cases of sexual and physical misconduct points to a problem that is widespread in our society. The lasting impact of incidents of this nature on both victims and accused is a profound tragedy.

The problem of unethical sexual or physical conduct, a form of exploitation, is one that compromises the integrity of the Church's ministers and volunteers and adversely affects the image and effectiveness of the entire Church. People place in their Church leaders a trust that must never be violated by any person employed by or volunteering services to the Church.

With a firm determination to promote and honor that trust, the Diocese of Buffalo renews its resolve to provide safety and protection for children and young people in Church ministries and institutions.

In June 2002, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) took steps to ensure the Church's vigilance in guarding against violations of trust. In November 2002, the USCCB approved a revised Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People (Charter) and revised Essential Norms for Diocesan/Eparchial Policies Dealing with Allegations of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Priests or Deacons (Essential Norms), effective March 1, 2003. See Promise to Protect - Pledge to Heal: Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, Essential Norms, and Statement of Episcopal Commitment (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, March 2003). This policy of the Diocese of Buffalo has been revised to incorporate those efforts.

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I. General Policy and Definitions

A. General Policy

Sexual and physical misconduct is contrary to Christian principles and inconsistent with the mission of the Church. All personnel of the Diocese of Buffalo must comply not only with applicable state and local laws regarding incidents of actual or suspected misconduct but also with the procedures included in this document, and they must exercise heightened vigilance as required.

B. Definitions Of Terms:

  • Child: Any person under 18 years of age.
  • Child Abuse: Causing harm or threatened harm to a child's health or welfare, to include damage to the physical or emotional/psychological health and welfare of a child, resulting from non-accidental physical or mental injury, incest, sexual abuse, sexual exploitation, molestation, or repeated negligent treatment or maltreatment.
  • Sexual Abuse of a Child: Sexual molestation or sexual exploitation of a child or other behavior by which an adult uses a child as an object of sexual gratification.

Sexual abuse has been defined by different civil authorities in various ways, and this policy, like Promise to Protect - Pledge to Heal (Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People and Essential Norms), does 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.

Thus, the norm to be considered in assessing an allegation of sexual abuse of a child is whether conduct or interaction with a child qualifies as an external, objectively grave violation of the Sixth Commandment. A canonical offense against the Sixth Commandment 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."

If there is any doubt whether a specific act qualifies as an external, objectively grave violation, the writings of recognized moral theologians will be consulted and the opinions of recognized experts will be obtained when appropriate. Ultimately, the Bishop, with the assistance and advice of the Diocesan Review Board (see below), will determine the gravity of the alleged act.

  • Diocese: The Diocese of Buffalo.
  • Chancery: The Bishop, Chancellor and Vicar General of the Diocese, and their staffs.
  • Employee: A person who is compensated for work performed for the Diocese, or for any parish, school, or institution under the supervision of the Diocese. This policy applies to the Diocese and all of its parishes, schools, and other institutions. Therefore, for the purpose of this policy, and only for the purpose of this policy, the term "employee" includes not only employees of the Diocese, but also employees of any parish, school, or institution under the supervision of the Diocese.
  • Volunteer: A person who works without compensation on a regular basis for the Diocese, or for any parish, school, or institution under the supervision of the Diocese. A volunteer is more than a one-time or occasional worker. This policy applies to the Diocese and all its parishes, schools, and other institutions. Therefore, for the purpose of this policy, and only for the purpose of this policy, the term "volunteer" includes not only volunteers for the Diocese, but also volunteers for any parish, school, or institution under the supervision of the Diocese.
  • Personnel: Employees and volunteers as defined above, clergy, and women and men religious working for the Diocese of Buffalo or for any parish, school, or institution under the supervision of the Diocese.
  • Review Board: The Panel described in this document (Part V, below).
  • Assistance Coordinator: An office described in this document (Part V, below).
  • Allegation: An accusation of child abuse or sexual abuse of a child regardless of whether the person to whom the accusation is made believes it to be true.
  • Complaint: An allegation of child abuse or sexual abuse of a child made to the Chancery. A form for written complaints is attached as Appendix A.

B. Types Of Abuse:

  • This policy is intended to address child abuse and sexual abuse of a child.

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II. Procedures For Reporting Suspected Abuse And Legal Requirements

A. For All Personnel

Any personnel who learns of an allegation of or suspects

  • sexual abuse of a child -- i.e., a person who is a child at the time of the suspicion or when the allegation becomes known to the personnel,
  • sexual abuse of a person when a child who is no longer a child, or
  • child abuse

must report that allegation or suspicion to the Chancery, and is encouraged to report to the appropriate district attorney. The only exception is if to do so would violate the priest/penitent relationship of the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

  • A written or oral report of the incident must be made as soon as possible to the Chancery and a written report shall be prepared by the Bishop's designee;
  • The Chancery will notify the Diocesan attorney, the insurance administrator, the Review Board and the accused's appropriate administrator of the report;
  • A sample reporting form is attached to this policy statement (Appendix A).

Any personnel who has knowledge of or reasonable cause to suspect an incident of child abuse or sexual abuse of a child must also comply with any mandated reporting requirement or other requirements of state and local laws.

All personnel will cooperate in any investigation by civil authorities in accordance with the law of the jurisdiction in question.

B. For The Chancery

The Chancery will report to the appropriate district attorney any allegation of child abuse or sexual abuse of a child, unless the statute of limitations for felony sex offenses in New York State has expired.

The only other exception is if to report would violate the priest/penitent relationship of the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

The Chancery will cooperate with civil authorities about reporting allegations of child abuse and sexual abuse of a child even when the victim of the abuse is no longer a child at the time when the allegations are received by the Chancery.

The Chancery also will comply with any applicable civil laws with respect to the reporting of allegations of child abuse and sexual abuse of a child to civil authorities and will cooperate in any investigation by civil authorities in accordance with the law of the jurisdiction in question. In every instance, the Chancery will advise any person making an allegation or complaint of that person's right to make a report to civil authorities, and the Diocese will support that right and encourage its exercise.

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III. Institutional Response To Complaints And Allegations

When a complaint is made, it is understood that the rights of all must be protected and that prompt and incisive action is important in responding. The Bishop or the Vicar General will appoint an individual to oversee a preliminary investigation of the complaint. Care will be taken not to interfere with any investigation by civil authorities and to be sensitive to the pastoral care of the victim, the well being of the community, and the fair treatment of the accused. Every effort will be made to ensure that all persons involved will be ministered to in a manner that is consistent with the gospel values of dignity, compassion, understanding, and justice.

Outreach: The Diocese will reach out to all victims of abuse and their families -- whether the abuse was recent or occurred many years ago -- to promote their spiritual and emotional well-being, their healing, and their reconciliation. The Vicar General of the Diocese will offer to meet with victims of abuse and their families to listen with patience and compassion to their experiences and concerns; a representative of the local parish will do the same. The Diocese will provide counseling, spiritual assistance, support groups, and other social services as agreed by the Diocese and the victim. Local parishes are encouraged to foster support groups for victims and others affected by abuse. The Diocese and its parishes will cooperate with social services agencies and other churches to provide support for victims and their families.

Investigation: The accused individual will be informed that the alleged incident is being investigated and will be given every opportunity to respond to the complaint. The accused 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 Diocese and the accused.

The appointed investigator will obtain legal advice, both civil and canonical, as necessary.

If there appears to be any credibility to a complaint deemed by the Bishop or Vicar General to be serious, the accused will be relieved of responsibilities to the Diocese and placed on administrative leave, pending the outcome of the investigation. The Bishop or Vicar General shall decide whether such leave is with or without pay or benefits.

This relief from administrative responsibilities is for investigation purposes only and is not intended to, nor shall it, imply any determination as to the truth or falsity of the complaint or the innocence or guilt of the individual involved.

When a complaint of child abuse or sexual abuse of a child involves a priest or deacon, the preliminary investigation will be initiated and conducted promptly and objectively in harmony with Canon Law. All appropriate steps shall be taken to protect the reputation of the accused during the investigation.

The accused shall have the right

  • to present evidence to the investigator,
  • to be represented by civil and/or canonical counsel,
  • to be notified of the particulars of the allegations, and
  • to due process of law in accordance with canon law.

The accused will be encouraged to retain the assistance of civil and canonical counsel and will be notified promptly of the results of the investigation.

When there is sufficient evidence that sexual abuse of a child has occurred, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith shall be notified. The Bishop shall then apply the precautionary measures mentioned in CIC, canon 1722, or CCEO, canon 1473: i.e., he shall

  • continue the administrative leave or remove the accused from sacred ministry or from any ecclesiastical office or function,
  • impose or prohibit residence in a given place or territory, and
  • prohibit public celebration of the Most Holy Eucharist pending the outcome of the process.

Legal Rights and Duties: Any personnel of the Diocese who admits or is determined by the Bishop or Vicar General to have committed even a single act of child abuse or sexual abuse of a child shall immediately be terminated from employment or volunteer service and from any position of responsibility with the Diocese and any of its parishes, schools, and institutions.

When even a single act of sexual abuse of a child 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. The cleric will be removed from ministry whether or not the cleric is diagnosed by qualified experts as a pedophile or as suffering from a related sexual disorder that requires professional treatment. Any cleric removed from ministry will be offered professional assistance for his own healing and well-being, as well as for the purpose of prevention.

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. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith shall be notified, as appropriate. Unless the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith calls the case to itself because of special circumstances, the Bishop will proceed as directed.

Because sexual abuse of a child is a grave offense, if the case would otherwise be barred by prescription, the Bishop 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 will be encouraged to retain the assistance of civil and canonical counsel. When necessary, the Diocese will supply canonical counsel to a priest or deacon.

Strict observance of canon and civil law will assist in the protection of all parties involved and will demonstrate that each individual's rights were fully respected and all privileges provided by law maintained.

If the penalty of dismissal from the clerical state has not been imposed (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 Mass publicly, to administer the sacraments, to wear clerical garb, or to present himself publicly as a priest.

At all times, the Bishop has the executive power of governance, through an administrative act, to remove the offending cleric from office, to remove or restrict his faculties, or to limit his exercise of priestly ministry. Because sexual abuse of a child is a crime in the universal law of the Church and in all jurisdictions in the United States, for the sake of the common good and observing the provisions of canon law, the Bishop shall exercise his power of governance to ensure that any priest or deacon who has committed even one act of sexual abuse of a child shall not continue in active ministry.

The Bishop may exercise his executive power of governance to take one or more of the following administrative actions:

  1. He may request that the accused freely resign from any currently held ecclesiastical office;

  2. If the accused declines to resign, and if the Bishop judges the accused to be truly not suitable at that time for holding an office previously freely conferred, then the Bishop may remove the accused from office, observing the required canonical procedures;

  3. For a cleric who holds no office in the Diocese, the Bishop may administratively remove any previously delegated faculties, while any de jure faculties may be removed or restricted by the competent authority as provided in law;

  4. The Bishop may also determine that the circumstances surrounding a particular case constitute the just and reasonable cause for a priest to celebrate the Eucharist only privately (that is, with no member of the faithful present), and the Bishop then shall forbid the priest to celebrate the Eucharist other than privately and to administer the sacraments, for the good of the Church and for the priest's own good;

  5. Depending upon the gravity of the case, the Bishop may also dispense the cleric from the obligation of wearing clerical attire, and may urge the cleric not to wear clerical attire, for the good of the Church and for the cleric's own good.

These administrative actions shall be taken in writing and by means of decrees so that the cleric affected is afforded the opportunity of recourse against them in accord with canon law.

The priest or deacon may at any time request a dispensation from the obligations of the clerical state. In exceptional cases, the Bishop may request of the Holy Father the dismissal of the priest or deacon from the clerical state ex officio, even without the consent of the priest or deacon.

Records and Reports: Appropriate records will be kept of each complaint and investigation. Records shall be confidential and be kept securely at the Bishop's office, with access limited to the Bishop, the Vicar General, the assigned investigator, and counsel for the Diocese.

The Review Board will be notified of any complaint, suspicion, or incident.

In accordance with the terms of applicable insurance policies, insurers also will be notified of any complaint or incident.

Unfounded Complaints: The Diocese will always make its best reasonable effort to ensure that care is taken to protect the rights of all parties involved, particularly those of the person alleged to have been sexually abused and the person against whom the complaint has been made. When a complaint has been determined to be unfounded, the Diocese will take every reasonable step to restore the good name of the person falsely accused.

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IV. Transfers and New Assignments

When a cleric is proposed for a new assignment or transfer, for residence in another Diocese or Eparchy, or residence in a country other than the United States, or for residence in a local community of a religious institute, the Bishop (for Diocesan priests) or religious superior (for religious order priests) will forward to the Bishop or religious superior of the proposed new assignment or residence an accurate and complete report of the cleric's record.

That report will include whether anything in the cleric's background or service raises questions about his fitness for ministry.

The Diocese will not transfer any priest or deacon who has committed an act of child abuse or sexual abuse of a child to another Diocese/Eparchy or religious province.

Before a diocesan priest or deacon can be transferred for residence to another Diocese/Eparchy or religious province, or before a Diocesan priest or deacon can -- with the Bishop's knowledge -- be present for an extended period of time in another Diocese/Eparchy or religious province, the Bishop will forward, in a confidential manner to the local bishop/eparch or religious ordinary (if applicable) of the proposed place of residence, any and all information concerning any act of child abuse or sexual abuse of a child, and any and all information indicating that the priest or deacon has been or may be a danger to children or young people.

This will 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).

Whenever the Bishop receives a priest or deacon from outside the Diocese, the Bishop will obtain all relevant information regarding the background of that priest or deacon, including any information regarding any past act of child abuse or sexual abuse of a child by that priest or deacon.

The Diocese will cooperate with the Apostolic Visitation of any seminary or religious house of formation recommended in the Interdicasterial Meeting with the Cardinals of the United States and the Conference Officers in April 2002. The Diocese will develop systematic ongoing formation programs, in keeping with the recent Conference document Basic Plan for the Ongoing Formation of Priests (2001), so as to assist priests in living out their vocation.

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V. Creation Of Offices To Assist the Diocese

Assistance Coordinator: The Diocesan Assistance Coordinator will offer assistance and immediate pastoral care to any person who claims to have been the victim of sexual abuse of a child by priests, deacons, or other Diocesan personnel, and, within the discretion of the Chancery, to anyone else needing similar assistance or care.

Review Board: The Diocesan Review Board functions as a confidential consultative body to the Bishop in discharging his responsibilities. The Review Board advises the Bishop in his assessment of allegations or suspicions of child abuse and sexual abuse of a child, and in evaluating suitability for ministry or employment. The Review Board will review and, if appropriate, revise this policy no less often than once every two years. The Review Board will meet periodically and offer advice on all aspects of allegations or suspicions of child abuse and sexual abuse of a child, whether retrospectively or prospectively.

The Review Board must be composed of at least five (5) persons of outstanding integrity and good judgment in full communion with the Church. The majority of the Review Board members must be lay persons who are not employed by the Diocese, but at least one member must be a priest who is an experienced and respected pastor in the Diocese and at least one member must be a person with particular expertise in the treatment of sexual abuse of a child. Each member is appointed by the Bishop for a term of five (5) years, which can be renewed at the sole discretion of the Bishop.

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VI. Safe Environment Program

The Diocese has established a Safe Environment Program. All diocesan offices, parishes, schools, and other organizations must participate in this program by:

  • ensuring that all personnel agree to and execute the Code of Conduct;

  • participating in the Diocese-wide education program designed to educate parents, children, and all personnel who have regular contact with children and young adults.

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VII. Educational Efforts

The Diocese of Buffalo recognizes that to fully address the problem of sexual or physical misconduct by church personnel, the Diocese must continue its comprehensive program of education designed to create an atmosphere of understanding that will help maintain the integrity of ministry in the church.

The educational efforts of this policy will continue to focus on:

  • Working definitions of sexual abuse within pastoral and ministerial relationships;

  • Characteristics of coercive and exploitive sexual behavior;

  • Strategies for maintaining the integrity of ministerial relationships; and

  • Reporting responsibilities for those aware of possible sexual misconduct or harassment.

The educational component of this policy has prevention of sexual misconduct as its goal and will provide intervention strategies when sexual misconduct has already taken place.

The following personnel (lay, religious, and clerical) of the Diocese and its parishes, schools, and other institutions, and such other personnel as the Bishop or Vicar General may require from time to time, must attend designated educational programs on methods of recognizing, reporting, and preventing sexual misconduct involving children or others:

  • All priests and deacons engaged in ministry in the Diocese of Buffalo;

  • Pastoral associates;

  • Administrators (schools and religious education);

  • Teachers and teachers aides;

  • Coaches and scout leaders;

  • And any other person whose status as an employee or volunteer involves regular contact with children, young adults, or other vulnerable populations.

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VIII. Standards of Behavior

All clergy, Diocesan and parish employees, volunteers, and other church personnel -- including and especially those who have regular contact with children and young adults -- must maintain the following boundaries and standards of behavior:

  • They must refrain from child abuse and sexual abuse of a child, as defined under I(A) above;

  • They must avoid any physical or verbal contact of any kind with a child that has the purpose of, or results in, their sexual excitement or gratification;

  • They must never use their role as a member of the clergy, an employee, a volunteer, or any other Church position to enter into a sexual relationship or encounter with a child or young adult;

  • They must execute and abide by the terms of the Code of Conduct, attached as Appendix B.

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IX. Procedures for Screening

Applicants/Employees/Volunteers

Screening is required of all applicants for a position as an employee or volunteer ("applicants").

The form attached to this policy as Appendix C is provided to assist with the screening of applicants who seek to serve the Church in the Diocese of Buffalo and is required for all applicants for personnel positions.

In addition, this form must be completed by all current members of the clergy, employees, and volunteers. The Diocese will review the personnel file of each member of the clergy, diocesan employee, diocesan volunteer, and other diocesan personnel to ensure that this form is in each file. All parishes in the Diocese will likewise review the personnel file of each parish employee and volunteer. The Vicar General (for the Diocese), or the pastor (for each parish and parish school), will have the responsibility of approving each applicant, or current employee or volunteer. If the Vicar General or pastor has any question about a given applicant, or about a diocesan or parish employee or volunteer, he will forward that person's personnel file to the Diocesan Review Board for its review and recommendation. These files will be maintained as a permanent record by the parish or institution. In addition, the Diocese and its parishes, schools, and institutions will evaluate the background of all of their respective personnel who have regular contact with children.

Priests and Deacons

The Diocese will employ careful screening and evaluative techniques in deciding the fitness of candidates for ordination.

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X. Communication

The Diocese is committed to open and transparent communication.

The Diocese will not enter into confidentiality agreements except for grave and substantial reasons brought forward by the victim and noted in the text of the agreement.

In order to coordinate the response of the Diocese to the media, any media inquiries regarding an incident of reported sexual misconduct by personnel of the Diocese must be directed to the Diocesan Director of Communications. Likewise, any inquiries directed to members of the Review Board or to any personnel of the Diocese regarding this policy must be directed to the Diocesan Director of Communications. Unless the Bishop directs otherwise, the Diocesan Director of Communications will be the sole spokesperson for the Diocese for matters addressed in this policy.

Within the confines of respect for the privacy and the reputation of the individuals involved, the Diocese will communicate as openly as possible with the community. This is especially so with regard to assisting and supporting parishes, schools, and other diocesan institutions directly affected by ministerial misconduct involving children. Recognizing the harm that child abuse or sexual abuse of a child can do to a faith community, the Chancery will offer a pastoral response to the affected parish, school, or institution.

I HEREBY AUTHORIZE THIS POLICY RELATING TO CHILD ABUSE AND SEXUAL ABUSE OF A CHILD AS THE OFFICIAL POLICY OF THE DIOCESE OF BUFFALO. THIS POLICY IS EFFECTIVE IMMEDIATELY AND I AUTHORIZE ITS IMPLEMENTATION IN THE DIOCESE OF BUFFALO.

Most Rev. Henry J. Mansell
Bishop of Buffalo
June 30, 2003

Rev. Msgr. Robert J. Cunningham
Vicar General/Chancellor
June 30, 2003

Most Rev. Edward U. Kmiec
Bishop of Buffalo
February 2, 2005

Rev. Paul A. Litwin
Chancellor
February 2, 2005

Most Reverend Richard J. Malone
Bishop of Buffalo
August 10, 2012

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