In response to deplorable revelations in the ongoing sexual abuse scandals within the Catholic Church, we, concerned laypeople, seminarians and aspirants, religious, clergy, and people of good will recommend these 15 points of immediate change to the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.
These revisions to the Church's Safe Environment protocols are a first and immediate step toward addressing some of the more nuanced points that recent scandals have highlighted as problematic in the Charter's current state.
While additional and difficult work will be required in reconciliation and repentance, all people of good will can agree on the immediate and necessary implementation of these 15 actions.
As such, we call on the hierarchy to immediately make these amendments in the Church's policies and practice as we work to bring mercy and justice to all affected by abuses within the Catholic Church:
- AUDIT: An impartial external audit will be conducted in order to identify the areas and mechanisms of corruption, along with avenues for rehabilitation and prevention, in order to align the Church's institutional culture and practices with Catholic doctrine, morality, and its members' state of life.
- VULNERABLE ADULTS: In addition to protecting children and the elderly, the definition of vulnerable adult will be expanded to include seminarians and religious aspirants; employees and subordinates; those being threatened or coerced; those with a large mental or developmental disparity by age or by ability; those who were previously victims or trauma, neglect, or abuse which made them susceptible to grooming or other forms of coersion; those for whom a large disparity of wealth, access, or resources presents a situation of intimidation and coercion; victims of human trafficking; those who are unfamiliar with the culture or its norms and safeguards due to immigration or language barriers; and when the accused has a relationship of spiritual authority over the victim.
- SPIRITUAL AUTHORITY: We will recognize that clergy and religious have a relationship of spiritual authority over all who know them to be clergy or religious and they are, therefore, representatives of the Church in all such relationships.
- ALL ADULTS ARE EQUAL: All adults (and those functioning in adult roles such as teens providing independent supervision of children), from volunteers through hierarchs, will follow the same Safe Environment protocols while acting in the name of the church.
- LAW ENFORCEMENT FIRST: A report of sexual or other criminal abuse is to be properly reported to the civil authorities with notification given to the church.
- GOOD FAITH REPORTING: Any report of sexual abuse or other criminal activity that is only made to the church will be reported to law enforcement by the church herself.
- TRANSPARENCY: All reports of sexual or financial abuse--including the expanded definitions of vulnerable adults above--which were not previously turned over to law enforcement will now be voluntarily turned over to law enforcement by the church.
- VICTIMS' ADVOCATE: A victims' advocate will be available to all reporters of violence and abuse to compassionately act in the interest of the alleged victim as he or she navigates the reporting, testifying, and healing processes. If allegations or findings of abuse are made public, the advocate will arrange for the spiritual and psychological support of the scandalized. The advocate must have appropriate training, qualifications, and resources to act in this role.
- CLERGY FAMILIES: Advice on provisions specific to married clergy and their families will be sought from affected stakeholders in order to allow clergy families the highest degree of protection, flexibility, and freedom from onerous burdens.
- DUE PROCESS: A measurable system of due process will be instituted in order to protect the good name and reputation of the workers who labor ethically in the vineyard of the Lord, that they not have cause to fear the repercussions of any false accusations.
- THIRD PARTY REPORTING: A report of sexual, financial, or criminal misconduct by a third party will be able to initiate an investigation (ie someone who learned of the allegations indirectly, such as the catechist of an informant).
- WE'LL ACT EVEN IF YOU DON'T: A church investigation along with findings and recommended actions will be done to its fullest extent following a report of mismanagement or abuse even when the alleged victim, accused, law enforcement and/or other key players do not cooperate with the church's investigation.
- VIOLATION OF INNOCENCE: The classroom training given to minors and vulnerable adults through the Safe Environment program will be updated to catechize them in their Christian identity, biology, vocation, and community in a way that helps them to have healthy relationships, boundaries, and a Christian worldview without violating their innocence by introducing inappropriate or fearful thoughts, images, or abuses.
- IMMORALITY: All clergy and religious who have a pattern of immoral behavior concerning chastity appropriate to their state in life, financial mismanagement, or criminality will be permanently removed from all teaching, preaching, and public ministry.
- SANCTIONS: The bishop will publicly release the names of those who by internal investigation or legal proceeding are found to have likely or positively abused others, and/or when sanctions are placed on a person's preaching, teaching, confessing, traveling, or other aspects of public life.