Archdiocese Toughens Priest Checks
New Policy Requires Police Background Search of Employees

By George Hunter
The Detroit News [Detroit MI]
Downloaded May 29, 2003

DETROIT -- The Archdiocese of Detroit on Wednesday announced sweeping changes aimed at spotting and weeding out pedophiles.

Under the new rules, all Archdiocese employees will undergo criminal background checks. The Michigan State Police will administer the checks for free starting Sept. 2. Officials hope to have the investigations of the Archdiocese's 5,000 employees and about 5,000 volunteers completed within a year.

"I think background checks are a good idea," said the Rev. Jack Baker of St. Mary Parish in Wayne. "If you don't have anything to hide, then there shouldn't be a problem with having the police check your background."

More than 400 priests from across Metro Detroit gathered Wednesday at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit to participate in "Protecting God's Children," a workshop that dealt with the dangers of sexual abuse, warning signs, and how to prevent and report abuse.

The workshop also outlined the new rules, which include mandatory education of all employees on how to spot pedophiles and children who have been abused.

Any employee who refuses to undergo the training or a criminal background check "will not be employed with the Archdiocese of Detroit," said Ron McGuire, the Archdiocese's director of human resources.

Although the background checks will focus on criminal sexual behavior, any other crimes uncovered will be dealt with on a case-by-case basis, McGuire said.

Wednesday's workshop also outlined the latest revisions to the Archdiocese's policies and procedures manual. Some of the most significant changes deal with new checks and balances that ensure rules are properly being carried out, said Msgr. Walter Hurley, pastor of Our Lady of Sorrows Parish in Farmington.

"There's greater accountability than ever," said Hurley, who also serves as a delegate to the Archdiocesan Review Board.

The new rules are a good start, said David Clohessy, national director of Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, a Chicago-based support group.

"Frankly, background checks are a long overdue step," Clohessy said. "But the overwhelming majority of child molesters have never been convicted. So we have to be careful at allowing these new steps to make us complacent about the safety of kids."

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