Diocesan Policy on Child Abuse
Download the complete policy on child abuse (PDF document)
INTRODUCTION: PASTORAL STATEMENT
An essential part of the mission of the Church is the promotion and protection of the rights and dignity of all people. Christian principles dictate that we have a special concern for those who are most vulnerable and those who cannot fully care for themselves.
The abuse of children, young people, and vulnerable adults by some members of the clergy and the ways in which those crimes and sins were addressed have caused enormous pain, anger, and confusion. The damage caused by that sexual abuse is devastating and long lasting and is felt not only by the direct victims but also by their families and communities.
At the same time, the problem of unethical sexual or physical conduct, a form of exploitation, is one that compromises the credibility of the Church’s ministers and volunteers and adversely affects the image and effectiveness of the entire Church. People place in their Church leaders a trust that must never be violated by any person employed by or volunteering services to the Church.
With a firm determination to promote and honor that trust, the Diocese of Buffalo renews its resolve to provide safety and protection for children and vulnerable adults in Church ministries and institutions.
Well before the issue of sexual misconduct by Church personnel received widespread national attention, the Diocese of Buffalo prepared a written policy to address abuse. This policy was distributed to all our clergy in 1990. In June 2002, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) took steps to ensure the Church’s vigilance in guarding against violations of trust. In November 2002, the USCCB approved a revised Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People (Charter) and revised Essential Norms for Diocesan/Eparchial Policies Dealing with Allegations of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Priests or Deacons (Essential Norms). The Charter and Essential Norms are revised periodically. See Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, Essential Norms, and Statement of Episcopal Commitment (Promise to Protect - Pledge to Heal)(USCCB 2018). https://www.usccb.org/test/upload/Charter-for-the-Protection-of-Children-and-Young-People-2018-final(1).pdf
This policy of the Diocese of Buffalo is also revised periodically.
I. GENERAL POLICY AND DEFINITIONS
A. General Policy
Sexual and physical misconduct is contrary to Christian principles and inconsistent with the mission of the Church. All personnel of the Diocese of Buffalo must comply not only with applicable state and local laws regarding incidents of actual or suspected misconduct but also with the procedures included in this document, and they must exercise heightened vigilance as required.
B. Definition of Terms
Child: Any person under 18 years of age.
Vulnerable Adult: A person who is impaired by reason of mental illness, mental deficiency, physical illness, or disability to the extent that he or she lacks sufficient understanding or capacity to make or communicate responsible decisions concerning his or her person or to manage his or her affairs effectively.
Child or Vulnerable Adult Abuse: Causing or attempting or threatening to cause harm to a child’s or vulnerable adult’s health or welfare, to include damage to the physical or emotional/psychological health and welfare of a child or vulnerable adult, resulting from non-accidental physical or mental injury, incest, sexual abuse, sexual exploitation, molestation, or repeated negligent treatment or maltreatment.
Sexual Abuse of a Child or Vulnerable Adult: Actual or attempted sexual molestation or sexual exploitation of a child or vulnerable adult or other behavior by which an adult uses a child or vulnerable adult as an object of sexual gratification.
Sexual abuse has been defined by different civil authorities in various ways, and this policy, like the Charter, does not adopt any particular definition provided in civil law. Rather, the transgressions in question relate to obligations arising from divine commands regarding human sexual interaction as conveyed to us by the Sixth Commandment of the Decalogue.
Thus, the norm to be considered in assessing an allegation of sexual abuse of a child or vulnerable adult is whether conduct or interaction with a child or vulnerable adult qualifies as an external, objectively grave violation of the Sixth Commandment. A canonical offense against the Sixth Commandment need not be a complete act of intercourse; nor, to be objectively grave, does an act need to involve force, physical contact, or a discernible harmful outcome. Moreover, “imputability [moral responsibility] for a canonical offense is presumed upon external violation . . . unless it is otherwise apparent.”
The acquisition, possession, or distribution of pornographic images of a child shall be considered sexual abuse of a child. The showing of pornographic images of an adult to a child shall be considered sexual abuse of a child.
If there is any doubt whether a specific act qualifies as an external, objectively grave violation, the writings of recognized moral theologians will be consulted and the opinions of recognized experts will be obtained when appropriate. Ultimately, the Bishop, with the assistance and advice of the Independent Diocesan Review Board (see below), will determine the gravity of the alleged act.
Diocese: The Diocese of Buffalo.
Chancery: The Bishop, Vicar General, and Chancellor of the Diocese, and their staffs.
Employee: A person who is compensated for work performed for the Diocese, or for any of its parishes or parish schools.
Volunteer: A person who works without compensation on a regular basis for the Diocese, or for any of its parishes or parish schools. A volunteer is more than a one-time or occasional worker.
Personnel: Employees and volunteers as defined above, clergy, and women and men religious working for the Diocese, or for any of its parishes or parish schools.
Independent Diocesan Review Board: The Panel described in this document (Part V, below).
Victim Assistance Coordinator: An office described in this document (Part V, below).
Allegation: An accusation of child or vulnerable adult abuse or sexual abuse of a child or vulnerable adult regardless of whether the person to whom the accusation is made believes it to be true.
Complaint: An allegation of child or vulnerable adult abuse or sexual abuse of a child or vulnerable adult made to the Victim Assistance Coordinator and containing the details necessary to assess the allegation. A form for written complaints is attached as Appendix A.
C. Types of Abuse
This policy is intended to address child or vulnerable adult abuse and sexual abuse of a child or vulnerable adult.
II. PROCEDURES FOR REPORTING SUSPECTED ABUSE AND LEGAL REQUIREMENT
- For Victims of Child or Vulnerable Adult Abuse or Sexual Abuse of a Child or Vulnerable Adult and Persons Who Become Aware of Such Abuse
The Diocese strongly urges all victims and families of victims to report any instance of child or vulnerable adult abuse or sexual abuse of a child or vulnerable adult to the appropriate district attorney. Additionally, anyone desiring to report allegations of child or vulnerable adult abuse or sexual abuse of a child or vulnerable adult to the Diocese of Buffalo should contact the Diocesan Victim Assistance Coordinator (716-895-3010). More information regarding complaints can be found at the link on the Diocesan website entitled “Filing a Complaint.”
The Victim Assistance Coordinator will explain to the person reporting the abuse or suspected abuse that the Diocese cannot promise absolute confidentiality to a complainant because of the responsibility of the Diocese to report allegations of abuse to the civil authorities and diocesan representatives as described in this policy and because, if the accused is still living, the Diocese will make the accused aware of the report. The Victim Assistance Coordinator will also explain, however, that the investigation of the complaint will be kept as confidential as the circumstances of an individual complaint will allow in order that the reputations of both the complainant and the accused are protected during the investigation.
B. For All Personnel
Any personnel who learns of an allegation of or suspects
sexual abuse of a child or vulnerable adult -- i.e., a person who is a child or vulnerable adult at the time of the suspicion or when the allegation becomes known to the personnel,
sexual abuse of a person who was a child at the time of the abuse but is no longer a child, or
child or vulnerable adult abuse
must report that allegation or suspicion to the Victim Assistance Coordinator (716-895-3010), and is strongly urged to report to the appropriate district attorney. The only exception is if to do so would violate the priest/penitent relationship of the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
- A written or oral report of the incident must be made as soon as possible to the Victim Assistance Coordinator who will prepare a written report if one has not been prepared already;
- The Victim Assistance Coordinator will provide a copy of the written complaint to the Chancery and the Diocesan attorney. The Chancery will notify the diocesan insurance administrator. The substance of all complaints and the results of any initial inquiries and investigations will be presented to the Independent Diocesan Review Board.
- A sample reporting form is attached to this policy statement (Appendix A) and is available on the diocesan website.
The foregoing reporting requirements are not intended to supplant whatever reporting obligations may be imposed by state or local laws.
All personnel will cooperate in any investigation by civil authorities in accordance with the law of the jurisdiction in question.
B. For The Chancery
The Chancery, through counsel, will report to the appropriate district attorney any allegation of child abuse or sexual abuse of a child.
The only other exception is if to report would violate the priest/penitent relationship of the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
The Chancery will cooperate with civil authorities by reporting allegations of child abuse and sexual abuse of a child even when the victim of the abuse is no longer a child at the time when the allegations are received by the Chancery.
The Chancery also will comply with any applicable civil laws with respect to the reporting of allegations of child abuse and sexual abuse of a child to civil authorities and will cooperate in any investigation by civil authorities in accordance with the law of the jurisdiction in question. In every instance, the Chancery will advise any person making an allegation or complaint of that person’s right to make a report to civil authorities, and the Diocese will support that right and encourage its exercise.
III. INSTITUTIONAL RESPONSE TO COMPLAINTS AND ALLEGATIONS
When a complaint is made, it is understood that the rights of all must be protected and that prompt and incisive action is important in responding. The Diocesan Bishop or the Vicar General will conduct or appoint an individual to conduct an initial inquiry into the complaint. Care will be taken not to interfere with any investigation by civil authorities and to be sensitive to the pastoral care of the victim, the well being of the community, and the fair treatment of the accused. Every effort will be made to ensure that all persons involved will be ministered to in a manner that is consistent with the gospel values of dignity, compassion, understanding, and justice.
Outreach: The Diocese will reach out to all victims of abuse and make itself available to their families -- whether the abuse was recent or occurred many years ago -- to promote their spiritual and emotional well-being, their healing, and their reconciliation. The Diocesan Bishop or his designee will offer to meet with victims of abuse and their families to listen with patience and compassion to their experiences and concerns. The Diocese will provide counseling, spiritual assistance, support groups, and other social services as agreed by the Diocese and the victim. Local parishes are encouraged to foster support groups for victims and others affected by abuse. The Diocese and its parishes will cooperate with social services agencies and other churches to provide support for victims and their families.
Initial Inquiry: Upon receiving a written complaint from the Victim Assistance Coordinator, the Diocesan Bishop or Vicar General will conduct or appoint an individual to conduct a prompt initial inquiry regarding the complaint. As part of that initial inquiry, if the identity of the accused can be determined and that person is a member of the diocesan personnel, the accused individual will be notified of the particulars of the allegations and advised of the right to be represented by civil and/or canonical counsel. If the accused is a priest or deacon, the initial inquiry will be conducted by the Vicar General.
If the initial inquiry results in a determination that the complaint is manifestly false or frivolous, the Vicar General will generate a written memorandum for the file to document the basis for that conclusion.
If a complaint is not manifestly false or frivolous and is deemed by the Bishop or Vicar General to be serious, the accused will be relieved of responsibilities and placed on administrative leave, pending the outcome of the investigation (discussed below). The leader of the employing entity, in consultation with the Bishop or Vicar General, shall decide whether such leave is with or without pay or benefits.
This relief from administrative responsibilities is for investigation purposes only and is not intended to, nor shall it, imply any determination as to the truth or falsity of the complaint or the innocence or guilt of the individual involved.
In the case of a cleric, the relief from administrative responsibilities shall be recorded in a decree, which shall include restrictions designed to prevent abuse during the pendency of the investigation. The Diocese shall take reasonable and appropriate measures to ensure that the cleric complies with the restrictions.
Communications regarding administrative leave will be handled by the diocesan communications office.
Investigation: Unless the initial inquiry results in (1) an admission by the accused or (2) a determination that there is no semblance of truth to the complaint, the initial inquiry will proceed to an investigation. The accused individual will be informed that the alleged incident is being investigated and will be given every opportunity to respond to the complaint. The accused may be requested to seek, and may be urged voluntarily to comply with, an appropriate medical and psychological evaluation at a facility mutually acceptable to the Diocese and the accused.
The Bishop or Vicar General will appoint an investigator. The investigator shall be a person of integrity and skill with significant experience conducting investigations and shall not be a member of the Chancery, a priest or employee of the Diocese. The investigator will be directed to complete the investigation within 45 days, unless circumstances dictate the need for more time. The appointed investigator will obtain legal advice, both civil and canonical, as necessary.
When a complaint of child or vulnerable adult abuse or sexual abuse of a child or vulnerable adult involves a priest or deacon, the investigation will be initiated and conducted promptly and objectively in harmony with Canon Law. All appropriate steps shall be taken to protect the reputation of the accused during the investigation.
The accused shall have the right
- to present evidence to the investigator,
- to be represented by civil and/or canonical counsel,
- to be notified of the particulars of the allegations, and
- to due process of law in accordance with canon law.
The accused will be encouraged to retain the assistance of civil and canonical counsel and will be notified promptly of the results of the investigation.
At the conclusion of the investigation, the investigator shall submit a written report to the Independent Diocesan Review Board. After such additional inquiries as it may deem necessary and after deliberation, the Independent Diocesan Review Board shall submit a written recommendation to the Bishop about whether the allegations of the complaint should be found substantiated or unsubstantiated. Where the Independent Diocesan Review Board has recommended that that allegations of the complaint should be found substantiated, that written recommendation shall be made public.
When there is sufficient evidence that sexual abuse of a child has occurred, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith shall be notified within ten weeks of the Bishop’s acceptance of such a recommendation of the Independent Diocesan Review Board. The Bishop shall then apply the precautionary measures mentioned in CIC, canon 1722, or CCEO, canon 1473: i.e., he shall
- continue the administrative leave or remove the accused from sacred ministry or from any ecclesiastical office or function,
- impose or prohibit residence in a given place or territory,
- prohibit public celebration of the Most Holy Eucharist pending the outcome of the process, and
- where feasible, create a safety plan around the priest in an effort to protect children from abuse.
Legal Rights and Duties: Any personnel of the Diocese who admits or is determined by the Bishop or Vicar General to have committed
even a single act of child or vulnerable adult abuse or sexual abuse of a child or vulnerable adult
shall immediately be terminated from employment or volunteer service and from any position of responsibility with the Diocese and any of its parishes, schools, and institutions.
When even a single act of child or vulnerable adult abuse or sexual abuse of a child or vulnerable adult by a priest or deacon is admitted or is established after an appropriate process in accord with canon law, the offending priest or deacon will be removed permanently from ecclesiastical ministry, not excluding dismissal from the clerical state if the case so warrants. The cleric will be removed from ministry whether or not the cleric is diagnosed by qualified experts as a pedophile or as suffering from a related sexual disorder that requires professional treatment. Any cleric removed from ministry will be offered professional assistance for his own healing and well-being, as well as for the purpose of prevention.
In every case involving canonical penalties, the processes provided for in canon law must be observed, and the various provisions of canon law must be considered. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith shall be notified, as appropriate. Unless the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith calls the case to itself because of special circumstances, the Bishop will proceed as directed.
Because sexual abuse of a child or vulnerable adult is a grave offense, if the case would otherwise be barred by prescription, the Bishop shall apply to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith for a dispensation from the prescription (time limits), while indicating appropriate pastoral reasons. For the sake of due process, the accused will be encouraged to retain the assistance of civil and canonical counsel. When necessary, the Diocese will supply canonical counsel to a priest or deacon.
Strict observance of canon and civil law will assist in the protection of all parties involved and will demonstrate that each individual’s rights were fully respected and all privileges provided by law maintained.
If the penalty of dismissal from the clerical state has not been imposed (e.g., for reasons of advanced age or infirmity), the offender ought to lead a life of prayer and penance. He will not be permitted to celebrate Mass publicly, to administer the sacraments, to wear clerical garb, or to present himself publicly as a priest.
At all times, the Bishop has the executive power of governance, through an administrative act, to remove the offending cleric from office, to remove or restrict his faculties, or to limit his exercise of priestly ministry.
The Bishop may exercise his executive power of governance to take one or more of the following administrative actions:
(a) He may request that the accused freely resign from any currently held ecclesiastical office;
(b) If the accused declines to resign, and if the Bishop judges the accused to be truly not suitable at that time for holding an office previously freely conferred, then the Bishop may remove the accused from office, observing the required canonical procedures;
(c) For a cleric who holds no office in the Diocese, the Bishop may administratively remove any previously delegated faculties, while any de jure faculties may be removed or restricted by the competent authority as provided in law;
(d) The Bishop may also determine that the circumstances surrounding a particular case constitute the just and reasonable cause for a priest to celebrate the Eucharist only privately (that is, with no member of the faithful present), and the Bishop then shall forbid the priest to celebrate the Eucharist other than privately and to administer the sacraments, for the good of both the Church and the priest’s own good;
(e) Depending upon the gravity of the case, the Bishop may also dispense the cleric from the obligation of wearing clerical attire, and may urge the cleric not to wear clerical attire, for the good of both the Church and the cleric.
These administrative actions shall be taken in writing and by means of decrees so that the cleric affected is afforded the opportunity of recourse in accord with canon law.
The priest or deacon may at any time request a dispensation from the obligations of the clerical state. In exceptional cases, the Bishop may request of the Holy Father the dismissal of the priest or deacon from the clerical state ex officio, even without the consent of the priest or deacon.
Records and Reports: Appropriate records will be kept of each complaint and investigation. Records will include the complaint, the result of the initial inquiry, the report of the investigator to the Independent Diocesan Review Board, and its recommendation to the Bishop. In the case of a cleric, the records will include the decrees and any materials sent to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and its response. Records shall be confidential and be kept securely at the Bishop’s office, with access limited to the Bishop, the Vicar General, the Chancellor, the assigned investigator, and counsel for the Diocese.
The Independent Diocesan Review Board will be notified of any complaint, suspicion, or incident.
In accordance with the terms of applicable insurance policies, insurers also will be notified of any complaint or incident.
Unfounded Complaints: The Diocese will take every reasonable step to ensure that care is taken to protect the rights of all parties involved, particularly those of the person alleged to have been sexually abused and the person against whom the complaint has been made. When a complaint has been determined to be unfounded, the Diocese will take every reasonable step to restore the good name of the person falsely accused.
Supplementary Review: When a new complaint is made regarding a person who was previously accused of abuse, or when new and previously unavailable information comes to light about a determination previously made, the Bishop and the Independent Diocesan Review Board shall consider that information in exercising their responsibilities under these policies and procedures as they consider the new complaint or reopen a previously determined complaint.
IV. TRANSFERS AND NEW ASSIGNMENTS
When a cleric is proposed for a new assignment or transfer within the Diocese, the Chancellor or Vice Chancellor will check the personnel file of the cleric before transfer.
The Diocese will not transfer any priest or deacon who has committed an act of child or vulnerable adult abuse or sexual abuse of a child or vulnerable adult to a new assignment within the Diocese or to another diocese/eparchy or religious province.
When a cleric is proposed for a new assignment or transfer,
for residence in another diocese or eparchy, or residence in a country other than the United States, or
for residence in a local community of a religious institute,
the Bishop (for Diocesan priests) or
religious superior (for religious order priests)
will forward to the Bishop or religious superior of the proposed new assignment or residence
an accurate and complete report of the cleric’s record.
That report will include whether anything in the cleric’s background or service raises questions about his fitness for ministry.
Before a diocesan priest or deacon can be transferred for residence to another diocese/eparchy or religious province, or before a diocesan priest or deacon can -– with the Bishop’s knowledge –- be present for an extended period of time in another diocese/eparchy or religious province,
the Bishop will forward,
in a confidential manner
to the local bishop/eparch or religious
ordinary (if applicable) of the proposed
place of residence,
any and all information concerning any act of child or vulnerable adult abuse or sexual abuse of a child or vulnerable adult, and
any and all information indicating that the priest or deacon has been or may be a danger to children or vulnerable adults.
This will apply even if the priest or deacon will reside in the local community of an institute of consecrated life or society of apostolic life (or, in the Eastern Churches, as a monk or other religious, in a society of common life according to the manner of religious, in a secular institute, or in another form of consecrated life or society of apostolic life).
Whenever the Bishop receives a priest or deacon from outside the Diocese,
the Bishop will obtain
all relevant information regarding the background of that priest or deacon, including any information regarding any past act of child or vulnerable adult abuse or sexual abuse of a child or vulnerable adult by that priest or deacon.
The Diocese will cooperate with the Apostolic Visitation of any seminary or religious house of formation recommended in the Interdicasterial Meeting with the Cardinals of the United States and the Conference Officers in April 2002. The Diocese will develop systematic ongoing formation programs, in keeping with the Conference document Basic Plan for the Ongoing Formation of Priests (2001), so as to assist priests in living out their vocation.
V. OFFICES TO ASSIST THE DIOCESE
Victim Assistance Coordinator: The Diocesan Victim Assistance Coordinator will offer assistance and immediate pastoral care to any person who claims to have been the victim of sexual abuse of a child by priests, deacons, or other Diocesan personnel, and, within the discretion of the Chancery, to anyone else needing similar assistance or care. The Victim Assistance Coordinator will also be responsible for preparing a written complaint if one has not been prepared already by the complainant.
Independent Diocesan Review Board: The Independent Diocesan Review Board functions as a confidential consultative body to the Bishop in discharging his responsibilities. The Independent Diocesan Review Board advises the Bishop in his assessment of allegations or suspicions of child or vulnerable adult abuse and sexual abuse of a child or vulnerable adult, and in evaluating suitability for ministry or employment. The Independent Diocesan Review Board will review and, if appropriate, revise this policy no less often than once every five years. The Independent Diocesan Review Board will meet periodically and offer advice on all aspects of allegations or suspicions of child or vulnerable adult abuse and sexual abuse of a child or vulnerable adult, whether retrospectively or prospectively.
The Independent Diocesan Review Board must be composed of at least five (5) persons of outstanding integrity and good judgment in full communion with the Church and such additional members as may be approved by the Bishop. The majority of the Independent Diocesan Review Board members must be lay persons who are not employed by the Diocese, but at least one member must be a priest who is an experienced and respected pastor in the Diocese and at least one member must be a person with particular expertise in the treatment of sexual abuse of a child. Each member is appointed by the Bishop for a term of five (5) years, which can be renewed at the sole discretion of the Bishop.
VI. SAFE ENVIRONMENT PROGRAM
The Diocese has established a Safe Environment Program. All diocesan offices, parishes, schools, and other organizations must participate in this program by:
ensuring that all personnel agree to and execute the Code of Conduct;
participating in the Diocese-wide education program designed to educate parents, children, and all personnel who have regular contact with children and young adults.
VII. EDUCATIONAL EFFORTS
The Diocese of Buffalo recognizes that to fully address the problem of sexual or physical misconduct by church personnel, the Diocese must continue its comprehensive program of education designed to create an atmosphere of understanding that will help maintain the integrity of ministry in the church.
The educational efforts of this policy will continue to focus on:
- Working definitions of sexual abuse within pastoral and ministerial relationships;
- Characteristics of coercive and exploitive
- Strategies for maintaining the integrity of ministerial relationships; and
- Reporting responsibilities for those aware
of possible sexual misconduct or harassment.
The educational component of this policy has prevention of sexual misconduct as its goal and will provide intervention strategies when sexual misconduct has already taken place.
The following personnel (lay, religious, and clerical) of the Diocese and its parishes, schools, and other institutions, and such other personnel as the Bishop or Vicar General may require from time to time, must attend designated educational programs on methods of recognizing, reporting, and preventing sexual misconduct involving children or others:
- All priests and deacons engaged in ministry in the Diocese of Buffalo;
- Pastoral associates;
- Administrators (schools and religious education);
- Teachers and teachers aides;
- Coaches and scout leaders;
- And any other person whose status as an employee or volunteer involves regular contact with children, young adults, or other vulnerable populations.
VIII. STANDARDS OF BEHAVIOR
All clergy, Diocesan and parish employees, volunteers, and other church personnel -- including and especially those who have regular contact with children and young adults -- must maintain the following boundaries and standards of behavior:
- They must refrain from child or vulnerable adult abuse and sexual abuse of a child or vulnerable adult, as defined under I(A) above;
- They must avoid any physical or verbal contact of any kind with a child or vulnerable adult that has the purpose of, or results in, their sexual excitement or gratification;
- They must never use their role as a member of the clergy, an employee, a volunteer, or any other Church position to enter into a sexual relationship or encounter with a child or vulnerable adult;
- They must execute and abide by the terms of the Code of Conduct, attached as Appendix B.
IX. PROCEDURES FOR SCREENING
Screening is required of all applicants for a position as an employee or volunteer (“applicants”).
The form attached to this policy as Appendix C is provided to assist with the screening of applicants who seek to serve the Church in the Diocese and is required for all applicants for personnel positions.
In addition, this form must be completed by all current members of the clergy, employees, and volunteers. The Diocese will review the personnel file of each member of the clergy, diocesan employee, diocesan volunteer, and other diocesan personnel to ensure that this form is in each file. All parishes in the Diocese will likewise review the personnel file of each parish employee and volunteer. The Vicar General (for the Diocese), or the pastor (for each parish and parish school), will have the responsibility of approving each applicant, or current employee or volunteer. If the Vicar General or pastor has any question about a given applicant, or about a diocesan or parish employee or volunteer, he will forward that person’s personnel file to the Independent Diocesan Review Board for its review and recommendation. These files will be maintained as a permanent record by the parish or institution. In addition, the Diocese and its parishes, schools, and institutions will evaluate the background of all of their respective personnel who have regular contact with children.
Priests and Deacons
The Diocese will employ careful screening and evaluative techniques in deciding the fitness of candidates for ordination.
The Diocese is committed to open and transparent communication.
The Diocese will not enter into confidentiality agreements except for grave and substantial reasons brought forward by the victim and noted in the text of the agreement.
In order to coordinate the response of the Diocese to the media, any media inquiries regarding an incident of reported sexual misconduct by personnel of the Diocese must be directed to the Diocesan Director of Communications. Likewise, any inquiries directed to members of the Independent Diocesan Review Board or to any personnel of the Diocese regarding this policy must be directed to the Diocesan Director of Communications. Unless the Bishop directs otherwise, the Diocesan Director of Communications will be the sole spokesperson for the Diocese for matters addressed in this policy.
Within the confines of respect for the privacy and the reputation of the individuals involved, the Diocese will communicate as openly as possible with the community. This is especially so with regard to assisting and supporting parishes, schools, and other diocesan institutions directly affected by ministerial misconduct involving children. Recognizing the harm that child or vulnerable adult abuse or sexual abuse of a child or vulnerable adult can do to a faith community, the Chancery will offer a pastoral response to the affected parish, school, or institution.
I HEREBY AUTHORIZE THIS POLICY RELATING TO CHILD AND VULNERABLE ADULT ABUSE AND SEXUAL ABUSE OF A CHILD OR VULNERABLE ADULT AS THE OFFICIAL POLICY OF THE DIOCESE OF BUFFALO. THIS POLICY IS EFFECTIVE IMMEDIATELY AND I AUTHORIZE ITS IMPLEMENTATION IN THE DIOCESE OF BUFFALO.
Most Rev. Michael W. Fisher
Bishop of Buffalo
March 12, 2021
Sr. Regina Murphy, S.S.M.N.
March 12, 2021