Child abuse is a horrific experience with potential lasting effects. Unfortunately it is a common experience in America and has become a societal issue not just a clergy issue. The National Children’s Alliance tells us that an estimated 678,000 children were victims of abuse and neglect in 2018.
In 2002, the bishops of the United States adopted the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People. The Charter is a plan of action to address the clergy sexual abuse scandal. The wording of the Charter is very clear that the bishops place great importance on their responsibility to help victims find healing and reconciliation.
The Charter addresses outreach to aid victims, and it guarantees an effective response to allegations of child abuse. It includes guidelines for reconciliation, healing, and prevention of future acts of abuse. Standards of behavior and appropriate boundaries for all clergy, employees and volunteers of the Church are stated. Guidelines for reporting allegations of sexual abuse to public authorities are given as well as those for the removal of clergy from ministry.
Accountability of the procedures is ensured by safe environment training and background checks for all Church personnel. This training helps recognition of the behavior of offenders and of what to do about it and of how to report it. The more people who are trained to recognize the warning signs of an offender, the safer our children will be.
The Charter is a promise to protect, and a commitment to accountability. Each year an audit report is sent to the National Office of Child Protection and every three years there is an on-site audit. These audits are conducted by an outside auditor. This year the Archeparchy is having its on-site three-year audit virtually on Oct. 22, 2020. Since the inception of the audits, the Archeparchy has been in compliance with the terms of the Charter every year.
You can help to prevent the abuse of children. You can help to make our Church a safe environment. Know the warning signs of offenders.
• They prefer to be with children.
• They go overboard touching, wrestling, or tickling.
• They may give minors alcohol or drugs or show them pornography.
• They allow children to break the rules.
• Offenders act as if the rules do not apply to them.
If you observe an adult who is not behaving appropriately with children, speak up. Let someone know what you saw. You are not accusing anyone of anything. You are letting someone know you care, are watching and are concerned that no harm is done to a child. Remember the proverb “It takes a village to raise a child”.
• For more information about the Byzantine Catholic Archeparchy of Pittsburgh’s Office of Safe Environment, go to www.archpitt.org and click on the icon of Jesus and the children.
• All dioceses and eparchies have Victim Assistance Coordinators, assuring that victims of abuse will be heard.
The Archieparchial Victim Assistance Coordinator is Courtney Minerd. She can be reached at 724-504-9588.