Independent audit determines Diocese of Scranton in full compliance with Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People

SCRANTON – The independent auditing firm of StoneBridge Business Partners recently conducted a thorough on-site audit of the child protection policies of the Diocese of Scranton and determined the Diocese to be in full compliance.

The audit period covered the time period of July 1, 2020, to June 30, 2023.

Auditors examined the Diocese’s protocols regarding training, reporting, and ensuring safe environments for young people according to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ mandated Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.

The Diocese of Scranton has passed audits of its child protection procedures, policies and records every year since the policy was adopted by the USCCB in 2002.

In receiving the latest compliance audit results, the Most Rev. Joseph C. Bambera, Bishop of Scranton, stated, “Our 21-year compliance record with child protection audits highlights the commitment that the Diocese of Scranton, along with its parishes and schools, has in ensuring the protection of children. This independent verification underscores the fact that rigorous training is being conducted and reliable reporting mechanisms are in place.”

Diocesan Safe Environment Coordinator Erin McGrady added that the audit results confirm the Diocese of Scranton is following the promises of the Charter.

“While many steps have been taken to address clergy sexual abuse, we must continue to listen, care for and walk with survivors. Every one of us must remain committed to safeguarding and strengthening our policies against the sexual abuse of minors,” McGrady stated.

The Diocese of Scranton’s Safe Environment Office ensures that Charter standards are continually met.

For more information on the Diocese of Scranton’s Safe Environment Program, or for a full overview of all policies and protocols, visit

To report sexual abuse by a member of clergy, an employee or volunteer of the Catholic Church, contact your local police department or county District Attorney and Mary Beth Pacuska, victim assistance coordinator for the Diocese of Scranton at (570) 862-7551.

To report sexual misconduct by a bishop or eparch, contact the national reporting website or reporting hotline at, or by calling 1-800-276-1562.

The Charter to Protect Children and Young People enacted by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in 2002, and the subsequent Church norms approved by the Vatican, give every diocese the mandate to establish prevention and training programs assisting everyone to recognize and deal effectively with the problem of child sexual abuse.  The mission of the Diocese of Scranton is to create safe environments for children by establishing policies and programs that clearly set standards of behavior regarding contact with minors.

Every diocese in the U.S. undergoes an annual audit to determine if it is complying with the provisions of the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People. The Diocese of Scranton has been in compliance with all audits since inception of the review process.

Bishop Joseph C. Bambera said, “We offer our support, compassion and assistance to help survivors of sexual abuse achieve healing. We remain vigilant and firmly committed to doing everything we can to prevent abuse within our Church, parishes, school communities, and Diocesan run facilities.”

Audit Compliance Results


2022-2023 (On-Site Audit)



2019-2020 (On-Site Audit)



2016-2017 (On-Site Audit)



2013-2014 (On-Site Audit)

Safe Environment


Our mission is to create safe environments for children through education and prevention programs, and establishing policies that clearly set standards of behavior regarding contact with minors. These endeavors include:

  1. The Diocese of Scranton maintains a zero tolerance policy for clergy, lay employees and volunteers who engage in misconduct with minors and takes immediate action when an accusation is made. Any allegation of abuse is reported immediately to law enforcement, and any substantiated allegation against a member of the clergy results in immediate and permanent removal from ministry. The Diocesan Review Board is notified of all abuse allegations. 
  2. The Diocese retains a Victim Assistance Coordinator who coordinates assistance for the immediate pastoral care of persons who claim to have been sexually abused as a minor by a member of the clergy. Each year, this program offers substantial support to survivors and their families by underwriting expenses related to counseling, medication and other forms of care.
  3. All employees in parishes, schools and Diocesan run facilities – clergy, religious and laity – as well as volunteers, including teachers and coaches, must have up-to-date criminal background and child abuse clearances. In addition, all those clergy, employees, and volunteers are required to complete training on the nature of child sexual abuse and how a parish/school community can work together proactively to prevent it.
  4. The Diocese has also implemented a mandatory safe environment program for students in grades K-12 in Catholic schools and parish religious education programs to teach them how to recognize and avoid situations that could lead to sexual abuse. It also encourages communication between children and their parents so that potentially dangerous situations and incidents are reported promptly.
  5. In order to strengthen the protection of children and assure that all mandated reporters of child abuse have accurate information, the Diocese of Scranton requires all identified mandated reporters to complete a training course.
  6. In every edition of The Catholic Light, we publish a notice about reporting sexual abuse of a minor. We also urge anyone to report incidents of child abuse immediately to the 24-hour PA Child Abuse Hot Line. The toll-free number is 1-800-932-0313.
  7. Every diocese in the U.S. undergoes an annual audit to determine if it is complying with the provisions of the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People. The Diocese of Scranton has been in compliance with all audits conducted since inception of the audit process. We constantly assess our procedures to insure that we are following our policies.


Victim Assistance


The Victim Assistance Coordinator is an integral component of the Diocese of Scranton’s Policy for Response to Allegations of Sexual Abuse of Minors.

The role of the Victim Assistance Coordinator is to facilitate the immediate pastoral care of persons that claim to have been sexually abused by a cleric (i.e., bishop, priest or deacon) when they were minors.  The Victim Assistance Coordinator responds promptly to persons who contact the Diocese concerning sexual abuse of a minor and will offer to meet with him or her.   The purpose of the meeting is to acknowledge the accusation, to listen with empathy and to inform him/her of any assistance that may be appropriate.   This support may include arranging for counseling or spiritual direction and referrals to support groups. Pastoral and counseling services are available to survivors, families of survivors, parishes and their communities.

Prayer for Healing Victims of Abuse

Background Screening Compliance

Resources Background Checks

Background checks are conducted to meet the requirements for the Charter and to comply with Pennsylvania law. The background screening is limited to a search for:

  1. Verification of a person’s identity
  2. Existence of a prior criminal record
  3. Listing on the state sex offender registry

Background checks are needed for:

  1. All clergy and religious
  2. All paid employees
  3. All volunteers who have direct contact and routine interaction with children

Background checks can be submitted by the person to the diocese, or the Diocese Safe Environment Office may run a background check after the application is completed by the person.

If a background check turns up a criminal record, it is discussed with the Safe Environment Coordinator, the Director of Human Resources and the supervisor of that individual to decide if they can start or continue their role.  

In addition to background checks, a letter of suitability is required of international and temporarily-assigned clergy. 

Background checks must be renewed every 5 years as per Pennsylvania State Law. 


Safe Environment Training – for Adults and Children

The Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People was established in 2002 by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops. The Charter mandates that each diocese create and maintain a safe environment program in order to protect children and prevent abuse. One of the key elements is awareness – awareness of the dangers of child sexual abuse and how to recognize, report, and ultimately prevent it.

Safe Environment Training for Adults


VIRTUS: Protecting God’s Children Program for Adults


Beginning in 2003, the Diocese of Scranton implemented a multi-faceted national program called VIRTUS Protecting God’s Children.

VIRTUS, (pronounced “verr-toose”) derived from the Latin word meaning excellence, and focuses on protecting children through education and training.

Clergy, religious, employees, and volunteers in the Diocese of Scranton can sign up for their required trainings on VIRTUS online.

VIRTUS Online Registration Instructions – ENGLISH

Instrucciones de registro en línea de VIRTUS – ESPAÑOL

VIRTUS Protecting God’s Children® Training addresses child sexual abuse, the methods and means by which abusers commit abuse, and five steps to prevent abuse from occurring and stop it from continuing. To be clear, any content that addresses child sexual abuse and other types of abuse can be disturbing and challenging to experience for anyone, but especially for victim-survivors of child sexual abuse. We encourage you to communicate any concerns you might have so we can make any necessary arrangements for you to complete the training.

Safe Environment Children’s Program


The national Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People requires each diocese to set up a safety education program for children. The Diocese of Scranton is utilizing the VIRTUS Empowering God’s Children® Program for this required education of our children and youth who participate in religious education, Catholic Schools, and youth activities.

As caring adults, we have the great responsibility of ensuring the safety of children and youth. The prevention of child sexual abuse requires more than adult awareness, education, and training about the nature and scope of the problem. We must also give children and youth the tools they need to help us keep them safe by educating them regarding boundaries, safe and unsafe behaviors and healthy relationships. Empowering God’s Children® is an age-appropriate comprehensive program through which educators (teachers, catechists and youth ministers) and parents can give children and youth the tools they need to protect themselves and what to do if someone tries to violate their boundaries. All materials are available in English and Spanish.

Each year, the program provides a theme that introduces and builds on the basic concepts of the Teaching Boundaries and Safety Guide. The material is developmentally appropriate for each age group and includes content and activities that reinforce the message. Within each lesson plan is the ability to tailor the activities and messaging to meet the needs of the children and youth at all levels.

VIRTUS Empowering God’s Children® Program materials can be found when logging into your online VIRTUS account and then selecting the “Educators” tab on top. If you need access to this material, please contact your Safe Environment Coordinator to request this access. 

Each year, children and youth will receive one of the following lesson plans:


Lesson 1 Physical Boundaries: Safe and Unsafe Touching Rules: Students learn simple rules about what to do and how to react when someone’s touch is confusing, scary, or makes the child or young person feel uncomfortable. Young people start to deal with the real risks they face when they are out in the world and on their own, and they begin to learn where to draw boundary lines in relationships.

Lesson 2 Safe Adults, Safe Touches and Special Safe Adults: Children, young people, and their parents establish basic guidelines for working together to make certain which friends and other adults in their environment can be trusted to act safely and in the best interest of each child or young person.

Lesson 3 Boundaries: You Have Rights! Children must understand they have a right to be safe, and they are allowed to create boundaries to protect themselves in situations where they feel uncomfortable, or where they could be harmed.

Lesson 4 Secrets, Surprises and Promises: Children must learn how to respect their own health and safety, and that of others, by understanding the safety rules about secrets. They have a right to be safe, and they are allowed to create boundaries to protect themselves in situations that cause discomfort or violate the safety rules.

Lesson 5 Being a Safe Friend: Children must know that being a friend means that we “do the right thing” when it comes to healthy friendships with their peers: meaning we recognize unsafe situations, intervene (when possible) and get the information to a safe

Lesson 6 Boundaries: Feelings and Facts: Through this lesson, the adult lesson leader teaches students specifically about boundaries, what unsafe situations could potentially feel like, and what to do in response if they feel uncomfortable or are in an unsafe situation.

Mandated Reporter Training


In 2014/2015 the state of Pennsylvania enacted new legislation revising the procedures for reporting child abuse.  Therefore, in order to strengthen the protection of children and to assure that all mandated reporters have accurate information, the Diocese of Scranton has established a policy requiring all identified mandated reporters to complete the online training course available at no cost on VIRTUS.

The following individuals in the Diocese of Scranton are required to complete mandated reporter training:

  • Priests and Deacons engaged in active ministry, Parish Life Coordinators, Diaconate Applicants, Seminarians
  • Adult staff working in parish offices
  • Adult employees and adult volunteers who, on the basis of the individual’s role as part of a regularly scheduled program, activity or service, accepts responsibility for a child and has direct contact with children (i.e. Directors of Religious Education, Catechists, Youth Ministers, Youth Coaches, Youth Choir Directors)
  • School employees (including substitute teachers, cafeteria and maintenance employees)
  • Employees of a child-care service who have direct contact with children during the course of employment
  • Employees of a social service agency who have direct contact with children in the course of employment