Protection of Children and Young People
SAFE ENVIRONMENT FOR THE PROTECTION OF CHILDREN AND YOUNG PEOPLE
As Christians, we know that God’s image in each person, and God’s call to holiness form the basis for human dignity. Our duty is to protect this human dignity, especially in the most vulnerable among us, our children. It is essential that they find a safe environment in our homes, in our schools, in our worship communities, and in the general community. Sexual abuse of a minor is a sin and a criminal act, which causes enormous pain, anger, and confusion. In order to protect the children and young people of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Eparchy in the USA and Canada from such abuse on the part of personnel acting in the name of the Eparchy, this policy addresses the need for prevention, reporting and investigation of allegations of sexual abuse of minors. It endeavors to provide a means of outreach to those who have been abused and the communities who are harmed by the abuse.
The Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People is a landmark document drafted and passed unanimously by the bishops of the United States at their June meeting in Dallas in 2002. The document is a response to the sexual abuse crisis in the church and a “Promise to Protect, Pledge to Heal.”
There are four focus areas:
- To promote healing and reconciliation with victim survivors of sexual abuse.
- To guarantee an effective response to allegations of sexual abuse of minors.
- To ensure the accountability of our procedures.
- To protect the faithful in the future
In order to protect the faithful in the future, Article 12 of the Charter states:
“Dioceses/eparchies will establish ‘Safe Environment’ programs. They will cooperate with parents, civil authorities, educators, and community organizations to provide education and training for children, youth, parents, ministers, educators, and others about ways to make and maintain a safe environment for children. Dioceses/eparchies will make clear to clergy and all members of the community the standards of conduct for clergy and other persons in positions of trust with regard to sexual abuse.” This guideline, which mandates that all dioceses create a safe environment for children and young people who pray, study and worship in our schools and churches, is the basis for our diocesan safe environment programs.
Efforts of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Eparchy in the USA and Canada for prevention will focus on screening and education.
- Within the Eparchy, all clergy, religious, seminarians, lay employees, and regular volunteers who have contact with minors must be screened according to the guidelines of the Eparchy.
- All such personnel will participate in education through the sexual abuse awareness and prevention training program of the Eparchy.
- Education of minors and adults will be offered throughout the Eparchy.
Anyone sexually abused as a minor or who knows about a case of sexual abuse of a minor should immediately report it to the civil authorities. When such sexual abuse has been committed by a cleric, religious, seminarian, diocesan or parish employee or an diocesan or parish volunteer it also should be reported to the Bishop of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Eparchy in the USA and Canada through the Eparchial Department for the Protection of Children and Young People. The telephone number of the Eparchial Victim Assistance Coordinator is 732- 245-1840. Reporting can be made at any hour of the day.
The Eparchy/parish will cooperate with investigations by appropriate civil authorities. In addition, all cases of sexual abuse of a minor committed by Eparchy/parish personnel will be investigated by the Eparchy in order to provide the Bishop with the necessary information to determine the appropriate course of action. Every effort will be made to maintain confidentiality so as to protect the rights of all parties concerned.
The response of the Eparchy to both victim and alleged offender will be to pursue justice with tenacity while also pursuing mercy with love and compassion.
- Victims: The healing of victims, their families, and their community from the effects of sexual abuse by church personnel begins when the allegations of such abuse are received. Victims of sexual abuse experience a profound sense of loss and betrayal by someone from whom they had the right to expect protection and guidance. This is even truer when the offender represents spiritual authority and one’s connection with God. As a result, victims frequently have difficulty trusting others, fearful that they will be blamed for the abusive acts. When victims decide to disclose the abuse they can be assured of receiving a welcoming reception that is compassionate and non-judgmental. To accomplish this outreach, they will be contacted by the Victim Assistance Coordinator.
- Alleged Offenders:An accusation of sexual misconduct is personally devastating. Should an allegation of sexual abuse be made, compassion will be exercised toward the accused and every effort will be made to protect his/her civil and canonical rights; understanding there is a presumption of innocence under both civil and canon law.
The Syro-Malankara Catholic Eparchy in the USA and Canada is committed to providing safe environments and fostering continuous improvement in every organization that sponsors activities and/or provides services to children and youth.
Through a series of workshops, educational materials, classroom instruction and background checks, the Eparchy is:
Increasing awareness of potentially harmful situations through the VIRTUS training workshops.
Empowering adults and children to act before abuse occurs through the Child Lures Prevention for Catholic School and Religious Education students and in Youth Ministry with an Inter-generational Program for families.
Evaluating background checks for relevance to the employee’s or volunteer’s position. Implementing a Pastoral Code of Conduct which outlines acceptable and unacceptable behaviors for all clergy, employees and volunteers.
Providing continuing education through the VIRTUS Web site
Your Role in Creating Safe Environments
As an adult you play a vital role in creating safe environments for children. To ensure the safety of everyone, especially those at-risk:
GET involved in activities with your child.
TEACH your child the correct names for their private body parts.
KNOW where your child is and who is with him/her.
ENSURE activities are monitored by more than one adult.
ALLOW a child to be picked up only by an authorized person.
PREVENT abduction by creating a secret password with your child.
NEVER leave a child in a building, on a field trip or in a public bathroom alone.
MEET with a child only in areas visible to others.
ALWAYS monitor access to a child’s activities.
BE ALERT to strangers hanging around.
MAKE sure enough adults are involved in the programs in which your child participates.
TEACH your child what to do if someone makes them uncomfortable.