6. POLICY REGARDING SEXUAL ABUSE OF MINORS
[Approved by the Provincial Council on June 2, 1995]
- Our primary concern in formulating this policy regarding sexual abuse of minors is the welfare of the young people to whom we minister. Our policy therefore stresses the need for continuing education and development in the area of human sexuality in order to prevent such misconduct to the extent possible. Should such an incident occur despite our best efforts at prevention, the Province is committed to taking appropriate steps to mitigate the destructive effects of the abuse on the victim, the victim's family, and the church community.
- The Province is likewise committed to treating justly any member who is accused of such misconduct The Provincial, with his advisory team, will investigate each such accusation thoroughly to determine whether there is reliable evidence to support it. Where such evidence exists, the Provincial, with his advisory team, will take the necessary steps to eliminate the risk of further incidents, while treating the accused member with compassion and respect.
- The procedures described below for responding to reports of misconduct are intended as general guidelines. They will be modified as necessary to meet the needs of a particular case.
- The Province recognizes the need for our own continuing education with respect to the many aspects of human sexuality as well as the varying areas of sexual misconduct, including the clinical, legal, and pastoral issues related to sexual abuse and exploitation of minors. In addition to each brothers' own responsibility for continuing education in these areas, the Province will continue to make resources available as well, e.g., articles, videos, seminars. Each brother is responsible for knowing the reporting laws in the state and also the policy of the diocese in which he ministers.
- Each institution through which we minister or for which we are legally responsible shall provide resources and in-service training for its own employees, develop its own policies with respect to professional practice and malpractice, and develop procedures for the reporting of sexual abuse of minors on the part of employees. These steps should be undertaken in conjunction with diocesan policies as well.
- The Province expects that any member who knows or reasonably suspects that one of his brothers has engaged in sexual conduct with a minor or is inclined to do so shall promptly bring the matter to the attention of the Provincial so that appropriate interventions may be made. Likewise, the Province expects that any brother who may himself experience such difficulty or believes he is at risk of engaging in such conduct shall seek help and guidance from the Provincial without delay. Such assistance will be provided with respect and confidentiality, to the extent possible,
Admissions and Initial Formation
- As a regular part of the preparation for participating in the admissions process, the members of the Admissions Board must be educated about the sexual abuse of minors in order to understand what factors make a candidate a high risk or potential abuser.
Local formation personnel have a responsibility to provide brothers in initial formation with resources for spiritual, personal, and psycho-sexual development.
Procedures for Addressing Accusations
- Any accusation of sexual abuse of a minor by a member of the Province should be referred immediately to the Provincial or, in his absence, to a Vicar Provincial. (Minor in this policy means any person under the age of eighteen.) If a member of the Province receives such a report from a parent or other person, the Province member shall first inform the Provincial and then his local superior. If the report is made to a superior, the superior shall report it to the Provincial immediately.
- The Provincial will arrange for an immediate investigation of the accusation, usually after consultation with his advisory team, After consultation, some or all of the following procedures will be implemented:
- The Provincial or someone designated by him will contact the minor's parents or guardian, both to obtain additional information concerning the basis for the accusation and to provide pastoral support and any other assistance he deems appropriate. In instances where the reported victim is no longer a minor, the Provincial may meet with him or her directly for these purposes.
- The Provincial or someone designated by him shall meet with the accused brother to inform him of the accusation. Where the accusation is serious and appears to be credible, the accused brother shall ordinarily be directed by the Provincial to cease all public ministry and to move from his place of residence to a place of temporary residence decided by the Provincial while the matter is being investigated. If, because of special circumstances, the Provincial, in consultation with his advisory team, determines that such action is not warranted, the accused brother's activities will be restricted to eliminate any unsupervised contact with minors and other situations that may place minors (and the brother himself) at risk. Such measures are a matter of prudence and reflect the seriousness with which such accusations are regarded. They are not intended to, and do not indicate any judgment on the part of the Provincial or his advisors as to the accused brother's guilt or innocence.
- If necessary, in order to determine whether the accusation is well-founded, the Provincial or someone designated by him will meet with other persons likely to have information relating to the alleged incident.
- The Province will comply with all applicable state and local laws concerning the reporting of sexual abuse of a minor to civil authorities and will cooperate with law enforcement agencies to the extent possible. If civil authorities are investigating the matter, the Provincial will defer his own inquiries in order to avoid interfering with the investigation.
- If the accusation appears to be well-founded, the Provincial will inform the bishop of the diocese in which the incident is reported to have taken place and will cooperate, to the extent possible, with the procedures established by that diocese.
- The Provincial, or someone designated by him, or a pastoral and professional team, shall meet with the parents or guardian of the abused minor as soon as possible in order to allay the concerns and fears of the parents and assure them of immediate action and understanding. The Provincial will determine the appropriate contact with the victim and the victim's family. This step should be taken as soon as possible after the incident has occurred. The Provincial shall assure the family that the Province does not condone the act, that appropriate action is being taken, that the Provincial will provide for needed psychological intervention for the victim. There should be follow-up contact as needed for pastoral reasons. If the victim is no longer a minor, such assistance may be provided directly.
- Where appropriate, the Provincial will assist the brother in obtaining legal counsel separate from that of the Province to advise him of his rights and provide independent representation in any civil or criminal proceedings that may arise.
- The accused brother will ordinarily be sent for immediate medical, neurological, and psychological evaluation, including an assessment for addictive behavior. Any treatment recommendations coming from the evaluation will be carefully considered and appropriately implemented.
After the brother has completed the recommended course of treatment, the Provincial, in consultation with the Provincial Team and appropriate professional advisors, will determine whether he should be permitted to minister and, if so, under what circumstances.
No one against whom a serious accusation has been substantiated will be permitted to return to public ministry unless all of the following circumstances are present:
- he has undergone long-term treatment and responsible professionals have advised that he is not a threat to the public;
- he continues to participate in a support group on a regular basis;
- it is possible to adequately supervised and monitor his contacts with the public to assure that there will be no recurrence of the disordered behavior.
Should it be determined that the brother cannot safely be permitted to return to public ministry, the Provincial will promptly inform him of that determination and assist him in finding responsible alternatives.
- In the event the brother against whom a serious accusation has been substantiated should seek an assignment in a diocese or otherwise engage in ministry, the Provincial will disclose to the relevant dioceses or institutions the circumstances which led the Provincial to conclude that the member could not safely engage in public ministry.
Protocols for Ministering to Minors
[Adapted from the Diocese of Lafayette-Indiana. Recommended by the Provincial Council, June 2, 1995]
Ministry to Minors:
- Minors should always be viewed, whether in a social or ministerial situation, as the "restricted individuals" they are, that is, they are not independents. Wherever they are and whatever they do should be with the explicit knowledge of the parents or guardian. Also, they are subject to specific laws in their own proper state and city, which may prohibit certain activities. They are not adults and are not permitted unfettered decisions. Any and all involvement should be approached from this premise.
- Caution and professional attitudes are to be observed in all interactions with minors.
- Another adult should be present in every situation involving a minor, excluding sacramental confession.
- A minor should be allowed only in the public section of a rectory/priory, never in the bedroom quarters.
- Brothers should never be alone with a minor in a house or in a closed room.
- Minors should be permitted to work in the rectory only when there is at least one other adult present at all times.
- Games or sport activities should be engaged in only with the presence of another adult.
- Brothers should never be present as the only adult in a locker room or other dressing areas when minors are using such facilities.
- Youth group trips should have a sufficient number of adult chaperons to preclude personal involvement of the brother.
- While on youth group trips, brothers should maintain a professional stature and socialize along with the adult chaperons.
- There should never be an overnight trip with a minor alone.
- A brother should never way overnight in the same room with a minor even if there are two beds.
- Attraction to or from minors should be recognized and admitted, and greater caution and care taken in all interactions.
- Brothers should take care to avoid the trap of "father figure." This tends to create an excessive emotional attachment for all parties.
- Brothers should always be aware of the "power" of their role/position. This can be a very seductive force.
- While in a sacristy with minor/minors present, the sacristy door should always be open.
- Comments of a sexual nature should be made only in response to a specific question, never introduced and should be professionally worded.
- Topics or vocabulary which could not comfortably be used in the presence of parents or another adult should not be employed with a minor/minors.
- Brothers may never supply or serve alcohol or any controlled substance to minors.
- Alcohol should never be consumed in the presence of minors nor should it be used if activities with them are scheduled.
- Above all, reflection on the words of Christ regarding children are a healthy meditation before any involvement and a salutary reflection and examination after each (Mt. 18:6; Mk 9:42; Lk 17:2; Mk 10: 13-16).
- Pastoral counseling of a minor must take place only in the professional portion of a rectory/priory, never in the bedroom quarters.
- The office door should have a window or be left open during counseling.
- If possible, another adult should be in close proximity during the counseling session.
- Unless the subject matter precludes their presence, parents or guardians should be present or aware of the session.
- The relationship must always remain professional during the sessions.
- Personal/physical attraction to or from an individual should be recognized, acknowledged and the minor should be referred to another brother or a licensed professional.
- If the counseling entails more than two sessions, evaluation of the situation should be made with the parents or guardians, an adviser or licensed professional.
- Concerning physical contact, careful boundaries must be observed at all times. There should never be physical contact outside the sacramental context, and should not be initiated by the brother.
- The sacrament of reconciliation should be celebrated in the place in church so designated for this purpose. Only extreme inconveniences or impossibility would be an acceptable excuse.
- If there is strong attraction or one seeks the companionship of a particular minor child or frequently visiting minors, the attraction and motive should be carefully and objectively examined by the individual and preferably by a "sponsor" /mentor or mental health professional.
- If greater satisfaction is found in the presence of children rather than adults, motive and attraction should be objectively and professionally examined.
- Support and social activity should be found with fellow brothers, and every effort should be made to secure such bonds.
- Sexual orientation is not the primary concern in these matters, but rather the dysfunctional misdirection of this drive and its force.
- Neglect of the spiritual/interior life is one of the first telltale signs of impending difficulty. Lacking this directional support, dysfunctional attractions are too easily confused and misconstrued.