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Archdiocese outlines abuse response in parish bulletins


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BRAINTREE -- Cardinal Seán O'Malley and the four auxiliary bishops of the Archdiocese of Boston have released a four-page document outlining archdiocese's efforts to help victims of sexual abuse and prevent abuse in the Church to be inserted in the bulletins of every parish the weekend of Nov. 10-11.

The issuing of the document comes at a time when the Church in the U.S. has been shaken by accusations that bishops have failed to implement their own child protection polices and just days before the annual meeting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) Nov. 12-15 in Baltimore. The bishops have said abuse prevention and accountability will be a central focus of their upcoming assembly.

On the cover of the four-page document is a letter to the faithful signed by Cardinal O'Malley and also sent in the name of Auxiliary Bishops Peter Uglietto, Robert Hennessey, Mark O'Connell, and Robert Reed.

Cardinal O'Malley said in the letter that addressing the sexual abuse crisis has been his "highest priority" since he came to Boston in 2003.

"Our policies and programs seek to guarantee victim/survivors the means to report claims of abuse and seek settlement, programs to provide professional care and support, and our full cooperation with law enforcement in the Commonwealth," he said.

The cardinal spoke of the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, which the USCCB passed in June 2002. Also called the Dallas Charter, this document "commits all archdioceses to reporting any allegations of abuse of a minor to civil authorities, zero tolerance for the exercise of ministry by any member of the clergy against whom there is a credible allegation of abuse of a minor, and screenings and trainings for all Church personnel, clergy, lay employees and volunteers, who could have any ministry with a child or young person."

In one of his strongest statements to date on the accountability of bishops, the cardinal said, "Any bishop or religious superior who does not comply with the Charter should be removed."

Cardinal O'Malley said he and the auxiliary bishops "have been meeting with representative groups of Catholic laity, parishioners, priests and religious, deacons, seminarians, and employees throughout the Archdiocese."

"It is clear that what has been shared at these initial meetings and conversations represents the thoughts and concerns of many others in the Archdiocese and I pledge to bring the call for greater accountability, transparency and lay participation in our Church to the upcoming meeting, including advocacy for a 3rd party reporting system for allegations against a bishop or cardinal," the cardinal said.

Following the letter, the insert outlined the archdiocese's "Commitment to Healing, Protection and Prevention" and described the function of the Archdiocesan Office of Pastoral Support and Child Protection.

A section on "Abuse Prevention Training" listed the age-appropriate safety curriculum used to train children as well as adults in how to avoid dangerous situations and report sexual crimes. These programs include Protecting God's Children for adults, The Child Protection Unit of Second Step for elementary school students, Created for Love for middle school students, The Technology Safety and Security Program for high school students, and The Teaching Boundaries and Safety Guide for parents and guardians.

The section on the archdiocese's reporting policy included a link to a list of the names and statuses of priests from the Archdiocese of Boston who have been accused of sexual abuse of minors. Most of these cases were alleged to have taken place between the 1960s and 1980s, and "To date, we have not received a claim alleged to have occurred since 2006."

The full document may be viewed online at bit.ly/RCABresponse

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