Diocese Acts to Protect Its Young

By Raygan Swan
Henderson Gleaner [Kentucky]
October 28, 2003

As a response to national sexual abuse scandals, the Catholic Diocese of Evansville has started what it called an unprecedented training session to protect youths.

The training is aimed at involving every person in the diocese by establishing and maintaining an environment that is safe for children, said Bishop Gerald A. Gettelfinger. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has mandated better protection of the church's young people. The training is one step in that direction. Also, the Evansville diocese now requires criminal background checks on every diocese employee.

Gettelfinger has said the church wants to assure people that those who work for the church are free of criminal allegations.

"We regret that any child or young person was ever abused by someone working in the name of the church," Gettelfinger said. "We are committed to healing these wounds and, to the best of our ability, see that this does not happen again."

The training is being conducted for youth protection coordinators in parishes and schools throughout the 12 counties in the Evansville diocese. Coordinators who receive the training will then train staff and volunteers in their parishes and schools by the end of the year. Training manuals teach diocesan members how to recognize signs of abuse or neglect - physical, sexual and emotional. The manuals outline best practices for adults who work with youths, such as having separate overnight accommodations and no one-on-one contact. It is the policy of the Evansville diocese to report any allegation of abuse to police and child protective services, and to inform the bishop's office. Anyone who admits to sexual misconduct will be removed from his assignment, according to policy. In the last decade, four priests or members of the diocese have been removed as the result of sexual misconduct allegations, said Paul R. Leingang, director of communications.

In 2002, two members were investigated for sexual misconduct, but the allegations were never substantiated. The diocese review board allowed the members to return, he said.


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.