Voice of the Faithful puts children first with new study of diocesan child protection efforts
Voice of the Faithful completes the first independent, online review of diocesan compliance with child protection guidelines; average score 67%
BOSTON - April 29, 2022 - PRLog -- Voice of the Faithful has published the first independent, online review of all U.S. Roman Catholic dioceses' level of compliance with child protection and safe environment guidelines. The average overall score was 67%, with the most frequently achieved score 63.5%. Although some dioceses did well, no diocese achieved 100%, and three dioceses scored in the 20s.
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The study is the first independent analysis of child protection and safe environment policies in all U.S. dioceses. VOTF operates independently of the Church's institutional structure, and the study is not an audit like those conducted by the U.S. Bishop's National Review Board. Called "2022 Report: Measuring Abuse Prevention and Safe Environment Programs as Reported Online in Diocesan Policies and Practices," the report is being released in April because the month is designated in the United States as National Child Abuse Prevention Month. The report's conclusions include:
"The breadth of clergy sexual abuse cases within the Church indicates that historical responses to accusations of abuse by the hierarchy were inadequate; those responses protected the reputation of the institution over supporting victims and preventing further child abuse within the Church. The hierarchical construct of privileged, secretive, unaccountable, male-only institution provides the backdrop that foments a culture of leaders who enabled the protection of the abusers and church leadership above the victims' best interests and suffering of children. Unchanging defense of this already damaged institution ignores the need to remedy faulty structures, such as bishops' deficient adherence to their own standards, as well as a lack of urgency and decisive actions that would demonstrate their professed resolve to protect and heal."
A few recent examples illustrating the report's conclusions include: former Albany Diocese leader Bishop Howard Hubbard's admission the diocese regularly moved priests accused of sexually abusing minors among parishes without informing police, victims' families or parishioners;
"The Church most often claims such investigations reveal just historic abuse," said Patricia T. Gomez, VOTF trustee and Protection of Children Working Group co-chair. "But our report, as an indication of commitment to child protection, does not show that widespread cultural change toward safer environments for children has taken place, and we won't know the extent of present abuse for some time because victims typically don't report it for decades."
To conduct this study, VOTF reviewers studied 177 websites, those of 176 U.S. Roman Catholic dioceses and the Archdiocese for the Military, USA. Reviewers used a worksheet that included 33 questions in the following 10 categories: policy; code of conduct; reporting abuse; background checks; prevention, education, and training; contact information;
"This (report) will surely promote a constructive conversation about how to monitor and improve child safety in the church environment,"
The five highest scoring dioceses were Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, 95.5%; Winona-Rochester, Minnesota, 93.5%; Venice, Florida, 92.5%; Baltimore, Maryland, 92.5%; and Richmond, Virginia, 89.5%. The five lowest scoring dioceses were Shreveport, Louisiana, 22.5%; Lubbock, Texas, 23.5%; Corpus Christi, Texas, 27%; Military Services, 38.5%; and Colorado Springs, Colorado, 41.5%.
The VOTF report made the following points:
The report concluded on the particularly important role of parishioners in child protection: "There is a key role for parishioners to ensure the protection of children in our parishes. Parishioners should work with diocesan and parish safe environment personnel to bolster safety guidelines at the diocesan level and ensure that safety measures are carried out in their faith communities. Alive in the life of Jesus, the entire People of God can transform into a sacramental community where children, youth, and the vulnerable are nurtured and protected in safe environments."
Voice of the Faithful's® mission is to provide a prayerful voice, attentive to the Spirit, through which the Faithful can actively participate in the governance and guidance of the Catholic Church. VOTF's goals are to support survivors of clergy sexual abuse, to support priests of integrity, and to shape structural change within the Catholic Church. More information is at www.votf.org.