New Archdiocese Anti-Abuse Rules
Background Checks on Priests Now Required

By Ron Goldwyn
Philadelphia Daily News [Philadelphia PA]
Downloaded June 6, 2003

All priests of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia must undergo police and child welfare background checks under new church policies to combat child sexual abuse.

The police check requirement, effective immediately, also applies to all others, including staff and volunteers, who have "regular contact with minors in the course of their work."

Any clergy or church worker who turns up as "a perpetrator" of a list of crimes from sexual abuse to homicide "shall be immediately removed and subject to termination," it states.

The archdiocese launched the policies on its Web site and in the Catholic Standard and Times yesterday.

Cardinal Anthony J. Bevilacqua called the policies "critical steps in revising and strengthening the archdiocese's commitment to the protection of children and young people."

The policies are in response to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' edict last June in Dallas that all dioceses implement their "Charter for the Protection of Young People" within a year.

"We are devoting the resources and personnel to make child protection a priority," said spokeswoman Catherine Rossi.

Sexual abuse by priests emerged as a scandal 16 months ago in Boston. In Philadelphia, Bevilacqua has announced tough policies and swiftly removed priests when allegations surfaced.

But he has kept the books closed on older cases, and has drawn criticism for alleged callous handling of victims who have come forward. A Philadelphia grand jury is investigating abuse allegations in the archdiocese.

The new youth protection policies include:

. An office of Safe Environment Programs, headed by Evelyn Brannan Tarpey, a Catholic Social Services counselor and social worker. The office held a day-long training session for parochial school principals in April.

. An Archdiocesan Review Board, set up last fall, which meets monthly to assess allegations of abuse and review policies and procedures for dealing with allegations.

. A victims assistance coordination program which, since last year, has been the place for victims or their families to report sexual abuse of a minor. Previously, allegations went directly to the Office for Clergy, even if the alleged perpetrator was a priest.

. An eight-page Standards of Ministerial Behavior and Boundaries. It states that counselling a minor "must take place in the public/professional areas of Church property" and in a room with a door that's open or has a window.

It declares, "Physical contact with youth can be misconstrued and should occur only (a) when completely nonsexual and otherwise appropriate and (b) never in private."

The police screening is new. It requires a Pennsylvania state police criminal record check and a state Department of Public Welfare child-abuse clearance statement.

All church personnel living outside Pennsylvania or moving here less than two years ago must also get an FBI fingerprint check.


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