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  Another View:
Diocese of Manchester Is Protecting Our Children

By Diane Murphy Quinlan
The Union Leader [New Hampshire]
September 30, 2004

AS A mother and faithful lay Catholic, I am troubled by the insinuation by The Union Leader that the church in New Hampshire has backed away from its commitments. I am proud of the work that has been done, and of the countless other laity who have assisted Bishop John McCormack, other diocesan officials, and me in doing the right thing.

When he came to New Hampshire in 1998, Bishop McCormack made the safety of children in the church a pastoral priority. Since then and especially since 2002, the Diocese of Manchester has made promises to survivors of child sexual abuse, to the Catholic faithful, and to the people of New Hampshire to take steps to ensure a safe environment in the church for all people, especially children. Like me, hundreds of people including parents, survivors of child sexual abuse, mental health experts, priests and child protection experts ó Catholics and non-Catholics ó have worked diligently to ensure that the promises made by the diocese have been fulfilled.

The diocese promised that no person who is found to have abused a minor will either continue or be placed in ministry. The diocese has established and implemented policies and programs to ensure that no person found to have sexually abused a minor is in ministry. In December 2002, the diocese agreed to report any allegations of sexual abuse of a minor by church personnel to the New Hampshire Attorney Generalís office, even if state law does not require that a report be made. The diocese works with a lay professional investigator and the Diocesan Review Board, comprised of eight people, including survivors of clergy sexual abuse, to evaluate allegations and to ensure compliance with diocesan policy, civil law and church law. The diocese has fulfilled its promises.

The diocese promised to train church personnel who work with children in sexual abuse awareness, prevention and reporting. In 2001, the diocese implemented a state-of-the-art safe environment training program as a mandatory part of the ongoing education of every person who ministers with children in a diocesan school, parish or institution. Over the course of the past three years, thousands of church personnel including clerics, employees, volunteers, parents and other interested adults have participated in this two-hour Protecting Godís Children training program, which includes instruction on the mandatory reporting laws of the state, the reporting requirements of the diocese, and the guidelines established for working with minors.

I work with the Safe Environment Council established by Bishop McCormack and the safe environment coordinators in schools and parishes to ensure that all people who minister with children in the church have participated in this important training as well as in ongoing training on sexual abuse awareness and prevention. The diocese has fulfilled its promise.

The diocese promised to broaden the scope of responsibility for the protection of children and young people. In 2002, a task force comprised mainly of lay people made recommendations for and helped to develop a new policy on sexual abuse of minors. The new policy, "Promise to Protect, Pledge to Heal," contains, among other things, requirements for background screening (including criminal records checks) and sexual abuse prevention training for church personnel who work with minors, specific guidelines for working with minors, requirements that all allegations of sexual abuse of minors by church personnel be reported to the civil authorities, and the provision of a pastoral response to those who report having been abused as minors.

With the assistance of pastors, principals, the Safe Environment Council and more than 100 safe environment coordinators, this policy is being implemented and enforced throughout the diocese. In addition, I am working with the Safe Environment Council, the Diocesan Review Board and many others to evaluate our policies and programs to ensure their effectiveness. The diocese has fulfilled its promise.

While Bishop McCormack and the Diocese of Manchester have fulfilled commitments to survivors, Catholics and the people of New Hampshire, we recognize that ensuring a safe environment for children must be an ongoing process involving the work of many people. We also recognize that in raising awareness of the tragedy of child sexual abuse and taking steps to prevent it from occurring in the future, we are fulfilling the mission and ministry of the Lord.

Diane Murphy Quinlan is vice chancellor, associate delegate for ministerial conduct for the Diocese of Manchester.

 
 

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