Up to 30,000 to Be Fingerprinted
Priests Prepare to Implement Revised Child-Protection Decree

By Lenore Christopher
The Catholic Telegraph [Cincinnati OH]
Downloaded June 07, 2003

ARCHDIOCESE -A through Z tacked to the walls at Incarnation's parish center in Centerville led priests the morning of May 23 to labeled boxes cramming the halls waiting for pickup. The boxes contained material pertaining to the revised Decree on Child Protection - information, policy and procedures priests carted home following a workshop with Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk, Chancellor Father Christopher Armstrong and other archdiocesan officials.

"We are here this morning," the archbishop told archdiocesan and religious order priests, plus some seminarians and deacons, "because the first decree, written in 1992 and put into effect in 1993, calls for a revision every five years."

This revision, "we are doing in part because we said we were going to revise it every five years" and, in part, to incorporate the charter and norms approved by the bishops' conference in June 2002. This final revision, "we believe, is fully up-to-date and incorporates everything that needs to be incorporated for the local church," the archbishop said.

The session this day is to "help you understand what it implies and provide time for questions," he said.

"I believe the 1993 and 1998 decrees have been very successful, proven to be a useful, educational tool and useful guide to help people understand what was expected and how they were to conduct themselves," said the archbishop. "We did not limit ourselves to sexual abuse but to all forms of abuse."

Nor is the decree or guidelines limited to only ordained members, but to "members of the ordained and all other ministries of the church. It is a broad approach and, in my judgement, a realistic approach," Archbishop Pilarczyk said.

"The first and second decrees were well-implemented due to the cooperation of the priests in the archdiocese. Pastors and other priests took the decree seriously and implemented it conscientiously," a factor that has provided a "significant contribution to the well-being of our diocese."

To illustrate the commitment and gravity of the situation, Archbishop Pilarczyk asked priests to "sign the tan sheet," a document that attests to their comprehension of the information and responsibility to those in their care.

"We want to be able to say that all our priests who minister in the archdiocese have read, understand and are committed to putting it into practice," he said.

At the conclusion of the meeting, the archbishop, followed by Auxiliary Bishop Carl K. Moeddel, was also fingerprinted by Eric M. Lapp of the National Background Check Inc. of Westerville, setting an example for the priests by complying with the directive for background reports.

Talking with the priests about child protection and child-abuse awareness programs that are in place in the archdiocese was Pat Armstrong, assistant superintendent for the Catholic Schools Office.

For more than 10 years, educational programs on child protection have taken place in more than 90 archdiocesan schools and parishes, she said, a number that will increase in the future with the help of grants and other resources. "Children need help and we need to give it to them and that help is being offered in the archdiocese."

Priests were given a list of available videos that address child protection as well as a resource contact list of agencies and hotlines throughout the archdiocese.

Jane Kriege talked about the work and value of the archdiocesan response team - "an integral part of the pastoral plan that works with victims and families, the local church community, civil authorities and the abused."

Archdiocesan attorney Mark Vander Laan discussed background checks that are necessary and the legal requirements for priests to report allegations of child abuse involving all those under the current age of 18.

"Most jurisdictions in the archdiocese handle reports with discretion, afford confidentiality to victims and to those reporting because they feel they need to under the law," he said. "We need to find comfort in that."

The bottom line is, "when in doubt, the safest thing to do is to call law enforcement and the chancellor," he said. "What we are trying to do is minister to individuals who come forward. We must work as a team to address this as responsibly as possible."

Father Joseph Binzer, who will become chancellor July 1, led priests through the specific sections and changes to the revised decree on contact with children, a policy that is designed to "protect the welfare and security of children in our care."

Tim Colbert, regional director for the Office of Youth Ministry, said it is "critical that youth ministry leaders, volunteers and (paid) professionals, understand the policy." He urged priests to send youth ministers to fall workshops, "Liability and Legal Concerns in Youth Ministry," scheduled in three locations: Sept. 23 in Cincinnati, Sept. 18 in Dayton and Sept. 29 in Sidney. For information, call 937-223-1001.

Vince Frasher, personnel director, discussed screening policies for all those who have "regular, significant contact with children in parishes and institutions of the archdiocese."

According to the policies now in place, background investigations from the Bureau of Criminal Investigations and Identification are expanded to include volunteers as well as employees. Identical to the policy for employees, if volunteers have not continuously lived in Ohio for the last five years, they must also complete an FBI card.

A regular volunteer is defined "as a catechist, Scout leader, coach, server coordinator, etc., who functions in a regular significant relationship with children. This includes interns, student teachers and others in a similar capacity. Any volunteer who works with children more than three hours per month or who works with children more frequently than once a month should comply with the diocesan policy. It does not include the occasional volunteer, such as a driver or chaperone for individual activities."

Background investigations can be accomplished in one of two ways:

Fingerprint card, which involves rubbing fingertips in ink, the results for which is available in three-to-four weeks; or,

Webcheck, which takes less time, involves no ink or paperwork, with results within 72 hours.

The archdiocese anticipates that as many as 30,000 people may need to be fingerprinted. Based on the greater percentage of accuracy and speed of return, Webcheck stations will be set up throughout the archdiocese. Costs for the testing are $15 for basic and $24 for the additional FBI test, if needed.

After July 1, the results of all criminal background checks are to be submitted directly to the Office of the Archbishop. After June 30, 2004, only Webcheck reports will be accepted. All parishes and institutions must fully comply with the requirements by June 30, 2004.

"The criminal background check is valid for as long as the volunteer continuously volunteers in the same (or multiple) parish or institution," the policy states. "If the volunteer moves from one parish or institution to another, or if the volunteer interrupts service for a period of one year, the volunteer must undergo a new criminal background check."

The workshop agenda also included the viewing of a video created by communications Director Dan Andriacco and information from Sister of Mercy Victoria Vondenberger, promoter of justice, about the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops' essential norms addressed in the "Diocesan/Eparchial Policies Dealing with Allegations of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Priests or Deacons."

Videotaping the session was Kyle McDowell, who works in the Office of Communications. Filming segments of the morning was a crew from Marin Corp. Productions of Chicago, a company that is preparing a documentary about seminarians.


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