What is the Church doing?
The care of young people is among the Church’s most important obligations. For them to suffer harm at the hands of anyone working on behalf of the Church, especially members of the clergy, is a great betrayal. As Pope John Paul II said, "There is no place in the priesthood or religious life for those who would harm the young."
The following actions are among the measures adopted by the Catholic Diocese of Fort Worth to combat abuse and promote healing within our own diocese:
Appointed a Victim Assistance Coordinator, in response to the Norms of the U.S. Bishops’ Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, established in 2002 and promulgated in 2005, revised in 2011.
Established and maintains a Sexual Misconduct Review Board for the purpose of reviewing allegations of sexual abuse. The board consists of a chairperson, a priest, and lay men and women with expertise in psychology, child protection, and sexual abuse recovery. The members are selected to serve on the Review Board because of their expertise and capacity to give the bishop expert advice on the diocese’s overall sex abuse policy and with individual allegations.
Instituted a Safe Environment Program of education and training to ensure that the church is an environment promoting that promotes the physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being of all members in the faith community. Under the Safe Environment Program, ALL clergy, church, and school personnel including volunteers and seminarians are required to:
- Complete a mandatory Safe Environment Training program called Keeping Children and Youth Safe.
- Priests are required to complete Safe Environment Training.
- Review and sign the Diocesan Code of Conduct.
- Receive a cleared Criminal Background Check.
More than 35,000+ people have participated in Safe Environment Training. This program provides the essential safeguard of educating parents and all persons who are employed or volunteer in our diocesan offices, parishes and schools.
Initiated and maintained programs of outreach to victims. The bishop has been meeting with all victims who are open to meeting with him or, in the case of victims who reside outside the diocese, of speaking with him by telephone. The Victim Assistance Coordinator coordinates services for victims and their families, depending on their circumstances. On-going pastoral care and services focused on healing form the outreach effort of Victims' Assistance in the diocese.
[ back to top ]
Require the careful screening of diocesan personnel and candidates for the priesthood, and of all visiting with regular contact with children.
- In 1992 The Bishops of the U.S. announced a set of principles which contributed a great deal to preventing future abuse. The Catholic Diocese of Fort Worth’s original policy, which addressed the matter of sexual misconduct by clergy, religious, or laypersons, was first adopted in 1993 and has been updated since, including a revision in 2002 to bring diocesan policies into accord with those policies adopted in the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People. The Charter is a comprehensive framework developed by the bishops and adopted at their national meeting in Dallas in June 2002, to put an end to the sexual abuse of minors by clergy and to prevent it in the future to the extent humanly possible. Among the policies in place in the diocese and refined since, were policies relating to:
- The mandatory reporting of all incidents of sexual abuse of children and young people to civil authorities
- The requirement that once reports were made to the appropriate authorities, the Diocese and its employees must cooperate with any ensuing investigation
- The requirement that victims / survivors must be informed by the diocese of their right to report allegations of clerical abuse to civil authorities.
- The Bishops are keeping their word in implementing the "Charter." The solid progress being made was verified by the Gavin Group which conducted an independent audit of the dioceses. The auditors were a team of more than 50 former law enforcement personnel, mostly former FBI agents. The report of this audit was released to the public January 6, 2004.
- The Catholic Diocese of Fort Worth was found not only to be in compliance with the relevant provisions of the Charter, but the auditors issued a commendation: "...for the Diocese’s commitment to a safe environment for children and young people prior to the enactment of the Charter."
- The Diocese is also committed to responding immediately to allegations of sexual abuse of minors and removing offenders from ministry for an established or admitted act of abuse of a minor.
- In the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, the bishops set up a review board, now called the National Review Board and made up entirely of laypeople. The bishops asked the Board to commission a study on the nature and scope of the problem of sexual abuse of minors by clergy within the Catholic Church in the United States.
- The National Review Board selected the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York to conduct the study.
- This study will contain information about how many clergy are alleged to have sexually abused minors, how many victims there have been, and the financial costs of compensating victims, of providing psychological treatment for both victims and offenders, and of defending dioceses in litigation in the years between 1950 and 2002.
- The Catholic Diocese of Fort Worth has shared information about its own situation through a special section of the North Texas Catholic newspaper, which reached the people of the diocese either through the February 20, 2004 issue of the North Texas Catholic or through an 8-page printed piece, inserted into parish bulletins and made available in the backs of churches after Mass the weekend of February 21-22, 2004.
- In addition, the study describes, in a composite way, many aspects of the personalities of abusers and of the abuse.
- This study is unprecedented. There is no comparable study of any other profession. As such, it represents a risk of another shadow being cast over the whole priesthood in the public mind. Few professions could easily absorb the revelation of 50 years of the worst misconduct by even a small percentage of their members.
- However, the bishops took this risk to be sure that the steps each diocese is taking (many of them described above) are truly addressing this scourge and overcoming it. We have to know the nature and the scope of the problem as it existed in the past to have that certainty.
- Sadly, we cannot change history, but we can make sure that we do not repeat it.
- The priests of the Church, along with the bishops, are sorrowfully aware that the misconduct detailed in the report which will be released to the public February 27, 2004, is a complete contradiction of what the priesthood is meant to be and what the Catholic people have a right to expect of each priest.
- The Fort Worth Bishop and his fellow bishops have chosen, through the steps taken in the Charter, including this difficult and challenging study, to do all in their power to cleanse the Church in this country of this terrible problem, to restore trust, and to open a new era in the protection of children and young people.
[ back to top ]
"Keeping Children and Youth Safe" Program
Parishes and schools have been providing Keeping Children and Youth Safe sessions since the fall of 2003 for all employees and volunteers who serve in the different ministries of the Catholic Diocese of Fort Worth.
The sessions are part of the Safe Environment Program which includes a mandatory training program for clergy, school personnel, volunteers and seminarians.
These sessions provide information and training including:
- Child sexual abuse - facts and myths
- How perpetrators of abuse gain access to children
- Warning signs:
- Adults (physical, emotional and behavioral violations)
- Children (effects of sexual abuse)
- Appropriate and inappropriate displays of affection with children
- Monitoring of employees and volunteers
- Training - Preventing false allegations
- Responding - disclosures