Catholic Diocese: 'We Will Protect Children'
Officials Outline New Diocesan Effort to End the Sexual Abuse of Minors.

By Renee K. Gadoua
October 10, 2003

Syracuse's Bishop James Moynihan on Thursday reiterated his invitation to victims of clergy sexual abuse.

"Report it to the diocese, to the authorities, or both," he said.

That invitation reflects the Syracuse Diocese's commitment to eliminating sexual abuse, Moynihan said during a news conference at which he and other officials outlined the diocese's new Child & Youth Protection Policy.

"It has been difficult to learn the diocese has not been immune to incidents of child sexual abuse," Moynihan said.

Beginning today, up to 12,000 diocesan employees and volunteers who work with minors will undergo training and background checks and must follow a code of conduct.

"This is now the culture of the diocese," said the Rev. James P. Lang, who oversees the program for the seven-county, 350,000-member Roman Catholic Diocese of Syracuse. "We will protect children."

No one with any background of sexual abuse will be allowed to work with minors, he said. That includes clergy, teachers, coaches, and volunteers at parishes and agencies the diocese runs.

The diocese will pay Virtus, a program of the Chicago-based National Catholic Risk Retention Group, $40,000 to provide training.

Officials hope all current employees and volunteers will be trained by March. New employees and volunteers are expected to be trained within 90 days of beginning work with the diocese.

The initial training, called "Protecting God's Children," is expected to take no more than four hours. The diocese will also select 80 facilitators who will get expanded education and agree to train up to 200 more people.

Employees and volunteers

will also be required to sign a code of conduct, which includes guidelines on access to youth, privacy, appropriate boundaries, and separate sleeping quarters for adults and minors. Some programs, which involve child care or working with people with disabilities, may also develop specific protocols.

After the training, participants will be asked to sign a release that will allow ADP Screening and Selection Services of Chicago to do a criminal background check. The diocese plans to repeat criminal screening for each employee every five years.

The diocese will pay $4 for each criminal check. Reports that reveal an adverse finding will require an additional cost.

The diocese next week will send a brochure about the programs to 104,000 Catholic households.

The Virtus program, screening, and printing and mailing cost the diocese about $180,000 this year, officials said.

The local programs are in response to policies the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops approved last year to address clergy sexual abuse in the church.

But the policy reflects a broader concern, officials said.

"Child sexual abuse is in every part of our society," said Danielle Cummings, communications director for the diocese. "We would be shortsighted if we took this problem and addressed only clergy sexual abuse."

Since 2002, officials in the Syracuse Diocese have confirmed that it permanently removed eight priests from ministry because of credible allegations of sexual abuse of minors. Officials will not say how many priests have been accused of sexual abuse.

In a financial statement released in August, the diocese acknowledged that in the last 10 years, it paid $184,631 for counseling expenses for sexual misconduct victims. Legal compensation, which includes fees and settlements, totaled $572,500. The statement does not identify the number of victims or the amount paid in specific cases.

The diocese has required criminal background checks for seminarians for 10 years, said the Rev. Neal Quartier, a psychologist who directs the diocese's Personal Resource Center and Seminarian Formation Office.

"Since then we have had no allegations against any of these men," he said.

Since the diocese implemented its review board in August 2002, it has received no complaints involving diocesan personnel other than clergy, officials said.

Moynihan said the volunteer time used in the last 14 months to create the program shows widespread commitment to combating sexual abuse.

"Our goal is to make the community a safe haven for our children," he said.

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