The Archdiocese follows a detailed process to respond to allegations of abuse

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops established the Charter for the Protection of Children and Youth (and Core Norms for Diocesan/Eparchial Policies Regarding Allegations of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Priests or Deacons) in June 2002. This is one of a series of articles by the Catholic Review to mark the 20th anniversary of the Charter and its impact on safe environments within the church.

When the Archdiocese of Baltimore receives an allegation of child sexual abuse by clergy, church employees or volunteers, archdiocesan officials take the person who has come forward very seriously, according to Bishop Adam J. Parker, Moderator of the Curia and Vicar General.

“That’s where we start. The investigation will try to look at every facet that we can possibly examine to uncover the truth,” he said in April 2022.

Bishop Adam J. Parker is a member of the U.S. Bishops’ Committee for the Protection of Children and Youth and oversees the group responsible for implementing the Charter in the archdiocese. (Kevin J. Parks/CR Staff)

In an interview with the Catholic Review, Bishop Parker, who is a member of the U.S. Bishops’ Committee for the Protection of Children and Youth and oversees the group responsible for implementing the Charter in the archdiocese, said that once an allegation has been brought to the Archdiocese, it is immediately reported to law enforcement and the Archdiocese then investigates, after ensuring that its investigation will not interfere with law enforcement .

“We want to get as much information as possible from the person making the allegation and as many other people who may be witnesses or have corroborating information about the allegation.”

During any investigation, some conversations lead to other people who may have information the Archdiocese needs.

An investigation by the Archdiocese does not depend on local law enforcement officials filing a complaint or making an arrest in a specific case.

“There are different thresholds that should be met,” Bishop Parker said. “For law enforcement to press charges in a criminal case, they would need a certain burden of proof. For us, the question is different. For the church, it’s not about laying charges; the question for us concerns fitness for ministry.

He added that even if the evidence in a given case does not lead to criminal charges, the Archdiocese still wants to know whether an incident happened or not, in order to ensure that a priest, deacon, an employee or volunteer would remain fit for ministry.

“In some senses, fitness for ministry is a higher standard (than for filing criminal charges) because we want to provide safe environments for everyone involved, and especially those who are minors,” he said. said Bishop Parker, ahead of the 20th anniversary of the establishment of the Charter for the Protection of Children and Youth and accompanying standards, approved in June 2002 by the US bishops.

Jerri Burkhardt, director of the Archdiocesan Office of Child and Youth Welfare, said: “One of the main purposes of this charter is to ensure that we respond quickly and effectively to allegations of child sexual abuse. against clergy, including reporting immediately to law enforcement and offering pastoral support to promote healing for victim-survivors.

With this in mind, the archdiocese generally offers pastoral support in the form of counseling to those who present an allegation.

“The first thing we do is listen to what they have to say; this is the first and most important thing,” she said.

“The Archdiocese pays counselors chosen by victim-survivors,” she said. “In some cases, victim-survivors simply want us to help them identify resources in the community, and that’s something we do. And the archdiocese proposes a meeting with the archbishop or one of his auxiliary bishops.

Burkhardt noted that an independent review committee is making sure the Archdiocese and Archbishop William E. Lori are doing all they can to promote reconciliation and healing for victim-survivors. She said some people find healing in the archdiocese immediately reporting the allegations to law enforcement. Allegations are reported to law enforcement “no matter how long ago, whether the perpetrator is alive or deceased.”

“As far as the review board, the other thing they do is they make sure that we remove from the department anyone who has been credibly accused of abuse, and they help assess the credibility of the allegations and the relevance of the ministry of those individuals who have been charged,” she said.

The IRB is an eight-person, mostly lay, group that reviews individual allegations of abuse and helps shape archdiocesan child protection policies. It is currently chaired by Dr. Jay Perman, Chancellor of the University System of Maryland, and includes a pastor, a nun, and five other lay professionals specializing in law and social services.

Burkhardt said the Independent Review Commission oversees and advises the Archbishop’s efforts to uphold and ensure the Charter’s promises for the protection of children and youth.

One of the important things about the review board is that it represents a variety of areas of expertise, including social work, law enforcement, the justice system, and caring for victims of child abuse. children and other traumatic experiences, she said.

“We rely on them to give us advice and ask questions to make sure that we ask all the questions that need to be asked and that nothing is overlooked that could help us understand what happened, often, in situations that would have happened years ago,” Burkhardt said.

With this combination of expertise and independence, IRB members “are not afraid to question findings or investigative methods or the thoroughness of our work or our response to survivors,” said she declared.

Bishop Parker said the Archdiocese is providing the Independent Review Commission with all the information it needs to reach consensus on the recommendations to the Archdiocese.

“The investigation, and in particular the results of the investigation, go beyond our own internal team,” he said. “Those reviewing the evidence and making recommendations to the Archbishop are largely lay people. …

“It is not the archbishop alone or even the archbishop and I alone who make the decision” on the fitness for ministry of a clergy member, employee or volunteer who has been accused of ‘misconduct. “We rely on the expertise of those who advise us, who are familiar with this area and have worked in this type of investigative environment for many years,” Bishop Parker said.

Email Christopher Gunty at [email protected]

Read more Child and Youth Protection

Copyright © 2022 Catholic Review Media

Comments are closed.