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Catholic Church Child Protection Policy

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In 2004, largely in response to a Boston Globe expose on the subject, Church officials released the long-awaited Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People. This 30-page document has been revised and updated several times, most recently in 2011.

Sexual abuse incidents, and the associated cover-ups, have rocked the Catholic Church in recent decades. Medically and psychologically, it is difficult for these survivors to recover. 

Legally, the Catholic Church is usually responsible for the losses victims sustain. About 95 percent of these claims settle out of court. So, victims usually do not have to confront their accusers and usually do not need to tell their stories publicly. If the victim is uncomfortable during a deposition or other encounter, a priest abuse attorney in Orange County can usually take steps to protect your privacy.

What is the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People?

This document makes it clear that sexual abuse, of any kind, is not acceptable in the Catholic Church.

More importantly, this document establishes a legal standard of care. Violating a written policy is clear evidence of negligence. So, claims are easier to prove, and damages are usually higher. Some specific policies and requirements include:

  • Transparent, user-friendly reporting apparatus
  • Timelines and standards for investigations
  • Pastoral support standards
  • A place for the laity in policymaking and decision making
  • Protection for whistleblowers

If the church, diocese, or other body does not live up to all these standards, liability may attach in the form of civil damages.

Who Drafted the Charter?

An eight-person committee heard testimony, interviewed witnesses, investigated the facts, and took other steps before publishing the report.

This committee’s membership is significant. Four of the eight members were lay people; two lay people were sexual abuse survivors. Cardinal Sean O’Malley, of Boston, was the only prelate on the committee. He is part of Pope Francis’ “kitchen cabinet,” so he has direct access to the Pontiff. Additionally, O’Malley held that same position in 2002, when the Boston Globe published the aforementioned landmark sex abuse study.

Was There a Policy Like This One Previously?

In the 1990s, several other committees met and drafted reports. However, some bishops submitted to them, and some did not.

The Charter is the first sex abuse policy which applies to everyone in the worldwide Catholic Church. Additionally, even if the abuse occurred before the Charter was published, its provisions are controlling. The Church clearly stated that “The Charter pertains to acts of abuse in the past, present, and future.”

How Do Dioceses Evaluate the Background of Clergy, Employees, and Volunteers Who Work with Children?

Churches usually order background checks, but do to privacy laws, much of the information these reports contain in self-reported.

So, churches must supplement these checks with local law enforcement. Generally, these agencies can perform independent background searches. But even the most thorough background check leaves gaps.

Therefore, it is important for both personal injury attorneys and churches to look for red flags. For example, if the person has relocated several times, such a pattern could indicate that the person has something to hide. In cases like these, best practices dictate that the volunteer or other person never have any one-on-one time with any child. 

How Often are Background Checks Conducted?

A one-time background check is clearly insufficient. At the same time, annual checks are clearly intrusive. In most cases, there should be a middle ground.

Once again, best practices suggest one background check every three to four years. That’s probably the right balance, unless there are red flags. In such a situation, more frequent background checks are appropriate.

Consult with a Lawyer

A new, written policy makes Catholic sex abuse cases easier to win. For a free consultation about your legal options, contact DiMarco | Araujo | Montevideo. We do not charge upfront legal fees in negligence cases and can help you file an Independent Compensation Program claim.