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Codes of Conduct

Sexual misconduct of any kind is gravely contrary to the will of God.  In keeping with this bedrock belief, the Archdiocese has adopted Codes of Conduct for both clergy and laity.  These Codes of Conduct are rooted in the Christian virtues of chastity, purity, and prudence, and call all our personnel to Christ-centered conduct with our children.  Together with the Safe Environment Policies, the Codes of Conduct shape and define the proper behavior of adults who are serving children in our parishes, schools, religious education programs, and other agencies.

The Codes of Conduct are to be followed by all Archdiocesan personnel.  Any violation of the Codes must be taken very seriously and must be brought to the attention of a  supervisor immediately.  Personnel may also report violations to the Safe Environment Office or the Office of Legal Affairs of the Archdiocese.

Supervisors of Archdiocesan programs are responsible for ensuring that the Codes are observed by all personnel.  Supervisors must immediately address any violation as soon as it comes to their attention, and take appropriate corrective and disciplinary action.

Any violation of the Code of Conduct that represents a risk to minors, or violations that are repeated after having been corrected, shall be the basis for termination of a person’s employment or volunteer service. 

You can download the various Codes of Conduct:

Code of Conduct for Laity (English)

Code of Conduct for Laity (Spanish)

Code of Conduct for Clergy (English)

Code of Conduct for Clergy (Spanish)

We have also developed the following guidelines for two common areas about which people have questions — maintaining proper professional boundaries, and acceptable kinds of physical contact with a minor.

Proper Professional Boundaries

Professionalism requires that adults maintain clear boundaries in their relationship with the minors they are serving. 

Adults bear the responsibility to ensure that:

  • their relationship with minors is clearly professional in nature;
  • proper boundaries are maintained at all times;
  • minors are made aware of these boundaries; and
  • any minor who intrudes upon these boundaries is counseled as to proper behavior. 

Here are some specific guidelines to help maintain proper professional boundaries in your relationship with minors:

  • Excessive familiarity or intimacy between adults and minors is not permitted.
  • Adults should not relate to minors as if they were peers or friends.
  • Adults are never to take on a role of a “surrogate parent” or “confidant” to a minor with whom they are working.
  • Adults must take special care to observe boundaries when they are dealing with minors who are especially vulnerable (e.g., children who have experienced sexual or other kinds of abuse).
  • Adults may not give undue attention or favorable treatment to a minor or group of minors, such that there is the appearance that there is a “special” relationship with the adult, or that a minor is a “favorite” of the adult.
  • Adults must always be with another adult or be in the proximity of another adult when working with minors in unsupervised settings. 
  • Adults may not be alone with minors in private locations.
  • Adults may not engage in purely social relations with minors in non-school or private settings, except in special circumstances (e.g., graduation parties).
  • Adults may not enter into a dating relationship with a person who is in a youth program that they minister to, even if that person is now an adult (e.g., a youth minister dating a current member of the youth group).

Physical Contact with Minors

Physical contact between adults and minors must be approached with a high degree of caution, and must be very strictly limited.  Adults are responsible for ensuring that there is no inappropriate physical contact with minors.

Physical contact with a minor is only permissible if: 

  • it is fully appropriate to the situation;
  • it is appropriate to the age of the minor;
  • it is entirely nonsexual;
  • the minor consents to the contact and is fully comfortable with it;
  • it will not be misconstrued by the minor or others; and
  • it does not constitute an abuse of the adult’s position of power or trust.

Here are some specific guidelines regarding physical contact with minors:

  • Physical contact with minors may never take place in private.
  • Physical contact in the context of any kind of counseling may never take place.
  • Physical contact with minors may never be routine behavior for an adult.
  • The kinds of prohibited physical contact include, but are not limited to:
    • any contact with the areas of the body that are ordinarily covered by a bathing suit;
    • kissing on the mouth or prolonged hugs (these are never permitted under any circumstances);
    • routine greeting/departure hugs or social kisses to the cheek;
    • holding hands (other than briefly holding the hand of a young child in public for their safety, for example while crossing the street);
    • placing and leaving one’s arm around a minor’s shoulder, back or waist for a prolonged period;
    • patting a child on the backside (even during a sporting event);
    • repeatedly touching on the arm, back or legs;
    • touching on any part of the body in a way that may be construed as a caress;
    • tickling or wrestling;
    • placing and leaving hands on the shoulders of a child sitting at a desk;
    • having a child sit on one’s lap;
    • placing and leaving hands on the legs of a minor who is seated alongside;
    • sitting with one’s legs crossed with the legs of another.
  • Some kinds of incidental and brief physical contact may be acceptable under special circumstances, such as:
    • briefly shaking hands as a social greeting;
    • very brief public social contact in connection with a special event or circumstance (e.g. such as a public greeting hug, an arm placed around the shoulder for a moment, or a short pat on the back, to congratulate a student at graduation);
    • lightly and briefly tapping on the arm or shoulder to get their attention;
    • a “high five” or “fist bump”, for instance during a sporting event;
    • an arm briefly placed around the shoulder of an upset or injured minor in public. 
    • Please note: these kinds of behavior should be rare, and under no circumstances can they be regular or routine behavior;  adults must use extreme caution, to ensure that these behaviors cannot be misconstrued by an observer or by the minor, and that they do not otherwise violate appropriate boundaries. 
  • The age of the minor is a very significant factor in determining whether physical contact is appropriate or not (e.g, ruffling the hair of a pre-schooler may be appropriate, but running one’s hand through the hair of an adolescent would not).
  • Otherwise unacceptable behavior does not become acceptable if it is done by a minor to an adult.  The adult has the obligation to stop the conduct and counsel the minor as to proper behavior.  The adult should also report any such incident to their supervisor.
  • Cultural customs, or the ordinary behavior of minors towards their peers, do not give permission for otherwise inappropriate physical contact by adults.