Diocese of Rockford Safe Environment
Program Protecting Children
and Young People

Q and A

What was the Diocese of Rockford’s procedure in the past when handling sexual abuse or misconduct allegations?

In 1987, the Diocese created a policy to responsibly and compassionately respond to sexual abuse allegations. A Diocesan Intervention Team (now known as the Review Board) was created to investigate reports of sexual abuse; The individual reporting the abuse was provided pastoral outreach, information regarding how to report the allegations to civil authorities, counseling services . , Where allegations against a priest were deemed credible, the priest was removed from ministry pending conclusion of an investigation.

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 U.S. 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, in cases where the victim is still a minor, the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services. The accused is removed from all ministry pending investigation into the report, and a public announcement is made of the removal and reason for the removal. 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. Substantiated allegations of sexual abuse of a minor are referred to the Vatican for appropriate resolution according to Canon Law. Counseling is offered to the alleged victim, as well as to the accused.

What is the Church doing for the person making the report?

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?

Report every instance of sexual abuse by anyone to the proper law enforcement authorities immediately, including the Department of Children and Family Services at 1-800-25-ABUSE. If the individual who harmed you is associated with the Diocese of Rockford, after you have reported the abuse to law enforcement, call the Diocese’s sexual abuse hotline at 815-293-7540 or by email at reportsexualabuse@rockforddiocese.org.

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.

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, and to report inappropriate conduct.  Our screening of candidates for the seminary, clergy and religious, applicants for employment, and those wishing to volunteer do protect our children.  Our Programs in personal safety educate children, and our programs in appropriate conduct, prevention of abuse, detection, and reporting educate parents, seminarians, clergy, employees and volunteers. The VIRTUS “Protecting God’s Children” program, for example, teaches clergy and religious, seminarians, employees, parents and volunteers to avoid inappropriate situations , 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.