MESSAGE FROM SAFE ENVIRONMENT COORDINATOR:
As we begin the month of May, we find ourselves in a time and space we could never have imagined. For most of us, life has come to a rapid standstill as we struggle to make sense of the challenge that has been placed before us. In this time of crisis, we are called to be patient. We are a resilient people. With God’s direction, we will survive this current situation. I am hopeful that, having endured this test, we will emerge stronger and more aware of our need to be connected and care for others.
In terms of the Safe Environment requirements, the PA state background checks can be completed online. This includes the State Police Criminal History and the Child Abuse History Certification. Please refer to “Background Screening Compliance” on this page for the links to submit online. THE FBI Federal check with fingerprinting continues to be available with certain modifications. If you are in need of the FBI check, please see the following site:
You may complete both the VIRTUS and Mandated Reporter trainings online. Kindly refer to the links below. This time also presents an opportunity to read the bulletins at VIRTUS online. This educational material serves as an excellent source of continuing education on the topic of child protection.
VIRTUS training: www.virtusonline.org
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. Charter compliance is accomplished by:
- Background Checks – Insuring a thorough background screening is completed for all clergy, paid employees and volunteers that have direct contact and routine interaction with children. Routine interaction is defined as regular and repeated contact that is integral to a person’s employment or volunteer responsibilities.
- Adult and Youth Training – Providing training in recognizing and reporting any suspicions or knowledge of child abuse to appropriate civil and Church authorities.
- Code of Pastoral Conduct – Holding all clergy, all employees and all volunteers accountable to a Christ-centered, pastoral code of conduct
- Victim Assistance – Continuing a firm commitment to pastoral care of survivors of sexual abuse
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. Please refer to the following link for the USCCB to review a copy of the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.
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.”
National reporting system to be used to hold bishops accountable
March 16, 2020 – The Diocese of Scranton has joined dioceses across the nation in implementing the new Catholic Abuse Reporting Service, another important step in addressing the clergy abuse crisis and the accountability of bishops.
The system will enable anyone to report an allegation of abuse against a bishop. Reports will be taken by an independent company, and investigated by both Church officials and lay people.
In May 2019, Pope Francis released his apostolic letter “Vos estis lux mundi” (“You are the light of the world”) to address the issue of sexual abuse and holding bishops accountable in the global Catholic Church.
In June 2019, one month after Pope Francis issued his order, the bishops of the United States convened for their general assembly in Baltimore and approved the implementation plan for carrying out the directives of the Holy Father here in the United States.
It was because of the ongoing commitment of American bishops to be held accountable that the Catholic Bishop Abuse Reporting Service was established. It is operated by Convercent, Inc., an independent, third-party entity that provides intake service to private institutions through a secure and confidential process.
When a report is received by the third-party system, it will be forwarded to the supervising archbishop of the region. In the case of Pennsylvania, that is Philadelphia Archbishop Nelson Perez. The report is at the same time forwarded to a layperson (someone who is not a priest or bishop) who has been designated to assist in receiving reports.
If the report involves abuse of a minor, it also will be forwarded to law enforcement.
After review and an initial assessment, the allegation then will be sent to the Apostolic Nuncio, the Pope’s ambassador in the United States, who will forward it to the appropriate authority at the Vatican. Within 30 days, the Vatican will assess the report and, if warranted, authorize a formal investigation.
Anyone who needs to report an allegation of sexual abuse or related misconduct against any bishop should go to www.ReportBishopAbuse.org or call, toll-free, 800-276-1562.
The service is intended to be used only for reporting allegations of abuse concerning bishops. It is not intended to be used for the reporting of other local concerns about bishops, such as priests’ parish assignments, closure of schools or parishes, or liturgical concerns.
2019 Bishops Meeting: Taking Action on Abuse Crisis
The Diocese of Scranton is committed to protecting its young people and ensuring that the local Church of Scranton continues to address issues of child sexual abuse with vigilance and fidelity.
Bishop Joseph C. Bambera attended the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops General Meeting in Baltimore from June 11-13, 2019 and voted in favor of the four new policies/procedures that were proposed during the meeting.
During that meeting, the USCCB overwhelming voted to approve proposals to hold bishops accountable for instances of sexual abuse of children or vulnerable persons, sexual misconduct, or the intentional mishandling of such cases. The bishops also re-committed themselves to involving and utilizing lay professional experts, which is already the practice of the Diocese of Scranton.
The bishops approved four important measures during their assembly. They include:
- Voting to implement the document “Vos Estis Lux Mundi” (“You are the light of the world”) which was issued by Pope Francis in May to help the Catholic Church safeguard its members from abuse and hold its leaders accountable. The document can be viewed at: http://www.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/motu_proprio/documents/papa-francesco-motu-proprio-20190507_vos-estis-lux-mundi.html
- Approving the document “Acknowledging Our Episcopal Commitments,” in which bishops affirmed the commitments they made at ordination, including the commitment to respond directly and appropriately to cases of sexual abuse of minors and vulnerable persons.
- Voting for a protocol regarding non-penal restrictions on bishops which outlines what canonical options are available to bishops when a retired bishop resigns or is removed “due to sexual misconduct with adults or grave negligence of office, or where subsequent to his resignation he was found to have so acted or failed to act.”
- Establishing an independent third-party reporting system to accept abuse allegations confidentially, by phone or online. A more detailed proposal for the third-party reporting system, including financial and structural elements, is in the planning process. The reporting system would begin no later than May 31, 2020 but bishops are hoping it can be available sooner. It’s important to note that anyone who has suffered sexual abuse should not wait for the national reporting system to be in place. Survivors can contact local civil authorities to file a report as soon as possible and may also report to Church authorities by existing means, including contacting Victim Asisstance Coordinator, Mary Beth Pacuska at (570) 862-7551 or Vicar General Monsignor Thomas M. Muldowney at (570) 207-2269.
These efforts are the latest in a series of steps the Diocese of Scranton and the Church has taken to respond to the sin of sexual abuse.