What steps has the archdiocese taken to prevent sexual abuse of minors by church personnel?
- The Archdiocese of New York fully implemented the United States Conference of Catholic Bishop’s Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People. The Charter establishes codes of conduct that govern all interactions with minors and other policies that address particular situations (e.g., overnight trips). Each year, every (arch)diocese is audited by Stonebridge Partners to make certain it is “in compliance” with the Charter. The Archdiocese of New York is consistently certified “compliant,” and in fact, has designed and implemented additional safe environment programs that go beyond the requirements of the bishops’ Charter.
- For example, in addition to the independent audits required by the Charter, the archdiocese has hired individuals – all former law enforcement officers from various agencies with experience in sexual abuse units – to conduct regular spot-checks of our parishes and schools to make certain that they are adhering to our safe environment policies.
Does the archdiocese work in conjunction with law enforcement on allegations of sexual abuse?
- To date, the archdiocese has conducted 118,000 background checks, and has provided safe environment training to 104,000 individuals, including age-appropriate training to children in Catholic schools and religious education programs. The archdiocese also runs repeat background checks on employees and volunteers so that it does not miss a problem that may have arisen since an initial check was done.
- Since April 2002, the archdiocese has had a reporting policy and memoranda of understanding with the 10 district attorneys who serve in the 10 counties of the archdiocese. (The archdiocese encompasses Manhattan, Staten Island, the Bronx, Westchester, Putnam, Rockland, Orange, Sullivan, Ulster, and Dutchess Counties.)
- If anyone has an allegation or suspicion of possible sexual abuse of minor, the archdiocese strongly encourages that individual to go immediately to the appropriate district attorney to report it, and makes it clear that if the archdiocese learns of an allegation of abuse, the archdiocese will report it to the district attorney.
How does the archdiocese respond to those persons making allegations of child sexual abuse by Church personnel?
- The archdiocese works with the district attorney not only by sharing information, but also by cooperating in any investigation that they undertake, especially if they believe that abuse might still be occurring, so that they might have a prosecutable case.
- For victim-survivors who contact the archdiocese, it responds with respect and understanding.
- The archdiocese first brings any allegation to the appropriate district attorney so they can investigate and build a prosecutable case; this is done even if the allegation concerns actions dating back many years.
What happens after the district attorney completes its investigation?
- If the district attorney has had an opportunity to investigate but has determined that they do not have a prosecutable case, the archdiocese begins its own investigation, and the priest is removed from ministry while the matter is under investigation. The entire matter is investigated by lay professionals and studied by the archdiocesan lay review board. However, because IRCP could result in false allegations being filed, for the duration of the program, the archdiocese will not remove the priest from ministry until the allegation has been substantiated by the district attorney, archdiocesan lay review board, or admission by the cleric. The archdiocese will continue its practice of notifying the parish where the priest is currently assigned, usually via a letter that is sent home to every registered parishioner, whenever a priest has been removed. The archdiocese also notifies the district attorneys and parishes where the priest was previously assigned. In all communication with parishioners, the archdiocese will encourage anyone with questions or concerns regarding the priest to contact the proper district attorney, and to provide the name and number of an archdiocesan victim assistance coordinator. The information is also published in the archdiocesan newspaper, Catholic New York.
- The person bringing the allegation is offered counseling by a counselor of his or her choosing. The archdiocese pays for this counseling, and there is no charge to the person who has brought the allegation. The victim assistance coordinator also asks if any pastoral or spiritual assistance is needed.
- The archdiocese conducts its own investigation. The archdiocese has retained Renaissance Associates, an outside investigation firm, to conduct independent investigations of abuse allegations. Renaissance Associates is made up of former federal investigators, including former FBI special agents.
- The archdiocesan review board then examines each case in depth, and makes a determination as to whether the allegation has been substantiated and the cleric has committed an act of abuse. It then makes a recommendation to Cardinal Dolan that the cleric should be permanently removed from ministry.