Diocese of Rockford Safe Environment
Program Protecting Children
and Young People
Sexual misconduct by clergy, Church personnel, Church leaders and volunteers is contrary to Christian morals, doctrine and Canon Law. It is never acceptable and Bishop David J. Malloy has declared emphatically, that “one case of abuse is one too many.” Sexual misconduct can have devastating consequences and effects on the victims and their families, the Church community, and for the transgressor. The Diocese of Rockford remains committed to preventing abuse and remains vigorous in its efforts to educate in the detection, and prevention and reporting of abuse, and to assist victims in healing.
To report an instance of sexual abuse by clergy, religious or laity affiliated with the Diocese of Rockford, contact local police authorities and call the Victims Abuse Line: 815-293-7540.
If the abuse involves a minor, also contact the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services at 1-800-25-ABUSE.
The Diocese’s Safe Environment Program entails the proper screening of those who wish to be employed by and/or volunteer for a parish, school, or other diocesan entity; the proper safe environment training of our employees and volunteers working with youth, and the chastity and personal safety training of our children in our schools and religious education programs; and compliance with Diocesan safe environment policies and the Charter for Protection of Children and Young People.
The Diocese screens and tests candidates for the priesthood and diaconate. It conducts ongoing training and education programs in the detection and prevention of sexual abuse for priests, deacons, candidates for ordination, religious, employees and volunteers. All of the Diocese’s elementary students and high school students, both in our Catholic schools, and in our religious education programs at our parishes, have been receiving ongoing training in sexual abuse awareness and prevention. Protecting God’s Children, an online safe environment training program created by Virtus, is offered to all parents, and required of all employees and volunteers having direct contact with children. All Diocesan priests, seminarians, employees and volunteers in direct contact with children are criminally background checked before they perform service for the Diocese in any parish, school or other diocesan facility. The Diocese responds promptly and decisively to allegations of sexual abuse- and removes from ministry and employment any individual associated with the Diocese, be it a priest, deacon, candidate for ordination, religious, or lay employee or volunteer, when a credible allegation is made.
Below are Links to Various Documents and Forms:
Safe Environment Online Training: VIRTUS/Protecting God’s Children for Adults
Child Safety Training Programs for grades PreK, Kindergarten, grades 1 – 8 and grades 9 – 12
Safe Environment Documents
Communications Policy: Media Relations Regarding Sexual Abuse Allegations
USCCB Office of Child and Youth Protection
Q and A
What was the Diocese of Rockford’s procedure in the past when handling sexual abuse or misconduct allegations?
Since 1987, the Diocese has had a policy in place to respond to sexual abuse allegations. The policy called for a Diocesan Intervention Team (now known as the Review Board) to investigate the allegations; for the alleged victim to be given information regarding how to report the allegations to civil authorities; for the Diocese to make counseling services available to the alleged victim. Under the policy, where allegations against a priest were deemed credible, the priest would be removed from any parish or other assignment which would have allowed him access to young people.
All priests, deacons, seminarians, religious, employees and volunteers of the Diocese are required to acknowledge that they will follow the Diocese of Rockford Norms for the Prohibition of Sexual Misconduct with Minors and Adults: Education, Prevention, Assistance To Victims, And Procedures For Determination Of Fitness For Ministry/Employment.
What is the procedure since the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ meeting in Dallas in June 2002?
The Diocese of Rockford adheres to the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, which was approved by the bishops in Dallas, and became particular law for the Catholic Church in the United States after Pope John Paul II approved it in October 2002. In keeping with the Charter, an allegation reported to the Diocese is referred to the Diocese’s Review Board for prompt investigation; and is also reported to law enforcement authorities and the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services in cases where the victim is still a minor. Adult victims are encouraged to make a report to law enforcement and the Diocese cooperates in all investigations conducted by law enforcement. The Review Board’s findings and recommendations are reported to the Bishop of the Diocese. Following a credible allegation of sexual abuse of a minor, the accused is removed from all ministry duties, and the allegations will be referred to the Vatican for appropriate investigation and resolution according to Canon Law. Counseling is offered to the alleged victim, as well as to the accused. In no case is a priest who is credibly accused of sexual abuse of a minor permitted to function as a priest.
What is the Church doing for the alleged victim?
When the Diocese learns of an allegation, the alleged victim is offered counseling and the Diocese reaches out to the alleged victim to begin the process of pastoral healing. The alleged victim is immediately encouraged to contact the appropriate civil legal authorities The Diocese reports to law enforcement and the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services all allegations involving a current minor. At the same time, the Diocesan Investigator and the Diocesan Review Board investigate the allegation with the intention of being able to substantiate it. Diocesan investigators who are retired law enforcement officials, investigate every allegation even if the state’s statutes of limitations on civil and criminal proceedings have expired, and the Review Board then makes its recommendations.
Does anyone from the Diocese meet with alleged victims of sexual abuse?
Every alleged victim is given the opportunity to meet with the Diocese’s victims assistance coordinator, and the Bishop or his delegate.
What if I am an alleged victim of sexual abuse by a clergyman?
You should report every instance of sexual abuse by anyone to the proper legal authorities immediately, including the Department of Children and Family Services at 1-800-25-ABUSE. If the alleged abuser is associated with the Diocese of Rockford, after you have reported the abuse to legal authorities, call the Diocese’s sexual abuse hotline at 815-293-7540.
Can you guarantee that sexual abuse of minors will never happen again in the Diocese?
No, we cannot guarantee that. No one can. However, we have policies and programs in place designed to prevent abuse by anyone associated with the Diocese. Policies call for us to screen all employees and volunteers who have contact with children. Programs assure that we educate children, parents, clergy, lay employees and volunteers. The VIRTUS “Protecting God’s Children” program, for example, teaches clergy, church personnel, parents and volunteers ways to avoid situations that could lead to sexual abuse, to recognize the warning signs of a perpetrator, and how to detect abuse, prevent abuse, and report abuse. The program is a mandatory requirement of all priests, deacons, seminarians religious, employees and volunteers of the Diocese.
What is being done for the continuing education of clergy?
In addition to requiring that all clergy participate in the VIRTUS “Protecting God’s Children” program, the Diocese has held a series of mandatory educational programs for clergy for the past several years. The focus of these programs is on prevention and detection.
What is being done in the seminary to assure us that future clergymen will not be abusers?
Our seminarians attend various seminaries, so the particulars of prevention efforts in their seminary experience will vary slightly. However, in all cases candidates for the priesthood in the Diocese undergo fingerprinting and background checks, as well as psychological testing and one-on-one interviews with several officials of the Diocese who are trained to detect and identify unsuitable candidates for the seminary. All seminarians undergo the VIRTUS “Protecting God’s Children” Training, as well. Candidates must also have lived a celibate lifestyle before being considered for ordination. Every effort is made to assure that candidates for the priesthood are well-suited in every way to live chaste lives of service and fidelity to Catholic moral teaching.