The Office of Child Protection and Victim Assistance

The Office of Child Protection and Victim Assistance provides opportunities to report abuse, heal from abuse, and find support. Additionally, this office works to ensure that all children and youth in programs throughout the diocese have a safe environment full of caring and responsible adults to watch over them.

The Office of Child Protection performs background checks and safe environment training for adults and youth in accordance with the requirements of the USCCB Charter on the Protection of Children.


 

View frequently asked questions on how the Diocese of Arlington protects children,
reports abuse and assists victims of sexual abuse by members of the clergy

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Here are the commitments the Diocese of Arlington makes with regard to allegations of sexual abuse and protecting God’s children:

  • No priest or deacon currently in active ministry have been credibly accused of child sexual abuse
  • We report EVERY allegation of sexual abuse to legal authorities and fully cooperate with their investigation
  • Our Review Board, which reviews all available evidence provided by the Diocese and legal authorities with regard to allegations of sexual abuse after law enforcement is notified, is made up of mostly lay volunteers with professional expertise (medical, psychological, legal (civil and canonical), and child abuse)
  • All staff and volunteers who work with children are screened before they are given access to children or ministries
  • All staff and volunteers who work with children are trained to identify inappropriate behavior, grooming techniques used by abusers, and how to report suspicious behavior or abuse
  • Each and every allegation of sexual abuse is taken seriously

 

Learn how the Diocese handles sexual abuse allegations

Recent diocesan responses:

Recent Vatican and USCCB responses:

Important notices:

 

 

Programs and Resources

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VIRTUS

VIRTUS: Protecting God’s Children Safe Environment Training for Adults

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Youth Training Programs

Safe Environment Training Programs for Children and Youths

Filling Out Form

Background Checks

Paperwork for employees and volunteers to complete for compliance with the Policy on the Protection of Children/Young People and the Prevention of Sexual Misconduct and/or Child Abuse.

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Liaisons

Liaisons serve as the primary contact point for child protection related questions and policy implementation at the parish or school level.

USCCB CYP Pledge to Heal

USCCB Charter & Norms

Governing documents from the USCCB on the Protection of Children/Youth, providing safe environments, and reporting of abuse.

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Annual Reports

Past Annual Child Protection, Victim Assistance, Advisory Board Reports and Victim/Survivor Sharing.

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Child Protection Resources

Additional Resources for Parents, Volunteers and Employees for the protection of children and youth and the promotion of a safe environment

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Facilitators

Facilitators are individuals trained to provide the VIRTUS: Protecting God's Children Training to employees and volunteers for completion of the required training under the policy.

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Diocesan Review Board

View the names and professions of the current board members.

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Counseling and Programs for Those Sexually Abused by Clergy

Explore opportunities for healing and growth including spiritual and pyschological counseling, Healing Masses, Prayers Services and Support Group Evenings with Bishop Burbidge and an Annual Day Long Retreat.

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Recommended Reading for Those Sexually Abused by Clergy

Check out talks from previous annual retreats, read messages of hope from survivors, and learn about books that other victim survivors have found helpful.

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Bishop Burbidge's Message for Survivors of Sexual Abuse by Clergy

Read Bishop Burbidge's message and personal commitment to hope and healing for those sexually abused by clergy, religious, lay volunteers, and employees of the Church.

Read the Letter

Frequently Asked Questions

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What are the commitments of Bishop Burbidge and the Diocese with regard to allegations of sexual abuse and protecting God’s children?

  • No priest or deacon currently in active ministry have been credibly accused of child sexual abuse.
  • We report EVERY allegation of child sexual abuse to legal authorities.
  • We fully cooperate with their investigation.
  • We have a Review Board that reviews all available evidence collected by the Diocese and legal authorities with regard to allegations of child sexual abuse by clergy. This Board is made up of mostly lay men and women volunteers with professional expertise in areas such as medicine, psychology, law (civil and canonical), counseling and child abuse.
  • All clergy, staff and volunteers who work with children are carefully screened, including background checks.
  • All clergy, staff and volunteers who work with children are trained to identify inappropriate behavior, grooming techniques used by abusers, and how to report suspicious behavior or abuse.
  • Each and every allegation of sexual abuse is taken seriously.

How does one report an incident of sexual abuse of a minor allegedly perpetrated by a priest, staff or volunteer?

Individuals are encouraged to contact local law enforcement if there is a known incident of sexual abuse, or they may report it to the Diocesan Victim Assistant Coordinator at (703) 841-2530.

What did the August 2018 Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report say?

A Pennsylvania grand jury reviewed the files of six dioceses in that state and found that 300 priests had been accused of committing child sexual abuse over the previous seven decades and that some bishops failed to report the abuse to police or to remove the accused priests from ministry permanently.

Is child sexual abuse still occurring?

Of the 300 priests described as abusers in the recently released Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report, two have been accused of abuse within the past 10 years. All of the other cases are decades old. Approximately half of the 300 priests are deceased, and the remaining priests are not in ministry. Based on these facts, there is good reason to believe that the comprehensive reforms and uniform child protection procedures developed by the United States bishops in the 2002 Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, along with much greater societal awareness and commitment to preventing child abuse, are having a significant impact and have led to drastic reductions in new allegations of abuse in the Church...

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Is Bishop Burbidge willing to meet with victims of sexual abuse?

Bishop Burbidge regularly meets with victims of sexual abuse, some of whom were not abused by members of the clergy or persons associated with the Catholic Church. He continues to welcome the opportunity to meet personally with victims, to hear their stories and to support them in their journey toward healing.

What is the Process when Sexual Abuse Allegations Against Clergy are Made?

The following are elements of the process of addressing allegations of sexual abuse by clergy:

  • We immediately report all allegations to legal authorities.
  • The Diocese cooperates fully with any law enforcement investigation. 
  • We forward all allegations to the diocesan Victim Assistance Coordinator so that outreach to the alleged victim can be offered.
  • After a prompt internal initial investigation...

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Have independent audits of the clergy personnel files been completed?

The clergy personnel files were previously independently reviewed in 2003 and 2011. Based on those audits, it is certain that no cleric with a credible allegation of sexual abuse of a minor is serving in ministry in our diocese. 

In September 2018, Bishop Burbidge commissioned a new, thorough review of the files of all priests and deacons who have ever served in our diocese, including those who are deceased or no longer serving here, to ensure that any past credible allegations of sexual abuse of a minor are known. This review is being conducted independently by two former FBI investigators who are given access to all personnel files related to clergy. 

Is there a list of priests with a credible allegation of abuse?

At the completion of the work of the independent investigators, a comprehensive list of any priests and deacons credibly accused of sexual abuse of a minor will be published. To give the investigators the time needed to be thorough and complete all work, no date has been established for when the list will be published. Bishop Burbidge hopes this public list will encourage other victims to come forward and will help bring healing to victims who have come forward already and told their stories.

When have the Diocese’s child protection policies been updated?

In 2002, the U.S. Bishops issued the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People (www.usccb.org/ocyp/charter.htm) as a comprehensive set of procedures for addressing allegations of sexual abuse of minors by Catholic clergy. Based upon this Charter, the Diocese of Arlington updated its child protection policy in 2003. A further update of this policy, to incorporate the latest advancements in best practices and to reflect experience under the prior policy, is currently underway. In addition, the Diocese has published Codes of Conduct for clergy and lay people who work with children. These were initially published in 2004 and were updated in 2012.

Was 2002 the first time the Diocese established policies to prevent child sexual abuse?

In 1991, the Diocese instituted its Policy on the Prevention of Sexual Misconduct and/or Child Abuse in an effort to prevent possible sexual misconduct and/or child abuse by personnel of the Diocese. This policy was updated in 1995 and 2000, and the current policy was adopted in 2003 and underwent a small revision in 2004. These policies have always applied to all diocesan staff, clergy and volunteers who have substantial contact with minors.

Who must be fingerprinted as part of their background check?

All clergy and employees of diocesan offices, parishes, parish and diocesan schools, ministries and charities — regardless of their contact with children — must undergo a background check that includes fingerprinting. Additionally, any volunteer with substantial contact with children must undergo a background check.

In addition to the policies, how does the Diocese prevent child sexual abuse?

Through the diocesan Office for the Protection of Children and Young People, the Diocese conducts Safe Environment training seminars on methods of preventing, recognizing and reporting child abuse and sexual misconduct. All clerics, employees and volunteers who have substantial conduct with minors of the Diocese, parishes, schools, missions or other institutions must attend these seminars within 45 days of submitting their completed background check.

Additional information about adult Safe Environment training in the Diocese of Arlington can be found on our VIRTUS: Protecting God's Children for Adults Training webpage.

Is a similar policy and practice in place for employees and volunteers who work with children?

If the alleged perpetrator is an employee of the Diocese, the employee shall be placed on administrative leave. Volunteers will be relieved of their volunteer positions. If an allegation of child abuse or illegal sexual misconduct by an employee is found to be credible, he or she shall be immediately terminated from employment and may also face criminal charges.

Who checks to ensure the Diocese is following its procedures?

Our diocese is audited annually by Stonebridge Business Partners of Rochester, N.Y., to ensure we are compliant with the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People. This audit looks at our practices and procedures for background checks, Safe Environment training and reporting. We have been found compliant each year since 2004.

Are lay people involved in reviewing accusations? What is the Diocesan Review Board?

When an allegation of sexual abuse of a minor is received, lay people are involved in each step of the process, including reporting the allegation to law enforcement, conducting the diocesan investigation and reaching out with assistance to the individual making the allegation.

In addition, based on the national charter approved in 2002, all dioceses are to have a review board that functions as a confidential consultative body to the Bishop. This board assesses allegations of sexual abuse of minors by clergy and review diocesan policies and procedures for dealing with sexual abuse of minors... 

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Are there priests now serving in our diocese with credible allegations of sexual abuse against them?

No. We have consistently followed the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People issued in 2002, which states that no cleric may serve in ministry following a credible allegation of sexual abuse against a minor.

If the allegations are found to be credible, will you fire the priest?

If an allegation of child sexual abuse against a priest is found to be credible, he will not return to ministry. Such individuals may also face criminal prosecution. 

The ordination of a priest binds him and his bishop in a special relationship, which normally continues for the entirety of a man’s service. Therefore, the Bishop, while ensuring a priest is never again put in a position in which he could harm a child, is canonically responsible to work for his rehabilitation, if that is possible, and to provide for his basic needs. However, in some circumstances, based on the gravity of the priest’s actions, the relationship between a priest and bishop can be severed. This process is called “laicization” and results in restoring a man to the lay state.

What happens to an accused priest if the allegations are found not to be credible?

If allegations against a priest are found not to be credible by both the civil authorities and the diocesan Review Board, and if there are no other impediments to his ability to serve, then the priest is restored to full ministry and actions are taken that will attempt to restore his good name.

Could our diocesan funds pay settlement or legal costs associated with child sexual abuse or sexual misconduct cases for OTHER dioceses?

Each diocese operates independently. No diocese is held financially responsible for debts of another diocese. 

Does the Diocese of Arlington have insurance to address sexual misconduct cases?

As a standard practice since the early 1990s, the Diocese of Arlington has included sexual misconduct insurance among its array of insurance coverages to help protect the donations made to the Diocese for ministry and charitable works.

Has the Diocese paid settlements to victims of abuse?

Over its 44-year history, the Diocese has paid approximately $110,000 from insurance funds in settlements of claims of sexual abuse of minors by clergy.

Are Bishop’s Lenten Appeal or Catholic Charities funds used in sex abuse settlements?

No. Funds provided for the Bishop’s Lenten Appeal, disaster relief, Catholic Charities, etc. are used for the purposes for which they are given and not in relation to claims of sexual abuse of minors. The Diocese has insurance policies in place to protect donor funds from lawsuits and/or claims.

What other expenses has the Diocese paid to assist victims or to prevent abuse?

The Diocese has had an extensive program to assist victims of sexual abuse. Since 2003, roughly $750,000 has been spent on therapy and essential needs for victims of sexual abuse, averaging $40,618 per year over the last 15 years. In addition to direct assistance to victims, the Diocese has spent $2.1 million on the Victim Assistance Program over 16 years. 

Most of those served by diocesan counseling services or referrals were not abused by clergy of this diocese, and many others were not abused by anyone associated with the Church... 

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Does the Diocese protect men in the seminary?

On episode 15 of the Walk Humbly Podcast, Bishop Burbidge stated:

“…I've been involved in seminary work for much of my priesthood and since I've been ordained a bishop. And, I have to say, I have great confidence in our seminaries right now. There is really an atmosphere of transparency. …the atmosphere's much different than when I was a seminarian. It was just a different time, a different culture, you had rules to follow, you did it, and there wasn't much discussion...

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Is there a policy on the admission of homosexual men to study for the priesthood in this diocese?

The Holy See has long held that men with "deeply rooted homosexual tendencies" or who are sexually active, regardless of sexual orientation, cannot be ordained to the priesthood. It was reported in the news media that, during a meeting with Italian bishops, Pope Francis has recently spoken about this issue directly and upheld this practice of the Church.

In the 2016 edition of the Congregation for Clergy’s ratio on priestly formation, the dicastery wrote: “In relation to people with homosexual tendencies who approach seminaries, or who discover this situation in the course of formation, in coherence with her own magisterium, ‘the Church, while profoundly respecting the persons in question, cannot admit to the seminary or to holy orders those who practice homosexuality, present deep-seated homosexual tendencies or support the so-called ‘gay culture.’”

The Diocese of Arlington follows the Holy See’s teaching on this issue. 

How does the Bishop ensure the safety of current men in the seminary?

The Diocese of Arlington’s seminarians study at five seminaries in the United States, Spain and Italy. Bishop Burbidge and the diocesan Director of Vocations maintain a very open dialogue with each seminarian. The Bishop annually visits each seminary, meets with each man and works closely with the leadership of each seminary. 

Bishop Burbidge has confidence in the way each seminary is run based on his own examination of their practices to ensure adequate safeguards for each man.

What can I as a Catholic do during this difficult time?

During this time, it is easy to feel helpless, but there are many things we can do as Catholics that are productive. 

First, know that there is no priest serving in our diocese with a credible allegation of abuse against him. Please pray for our priests, especially your parish priests, and offer encouragement to them, as they are saddened and angered by the tragic and evil actions of some priests and by Church leaders who failed to protect those under their care... 

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Does the Diocese have a Review Board? If so, are the members only priests?

The Diocesan Review Board accesses allegations of sexual abuse of minors and regularly review diocesan policies and procedures for dealing with sexual abuse of minors. The membership of the Review Board is publicly available and is comprised of mostly lay people who are professionals in the areas of psychiatry, social services, law, education, etc.

When did the Diocese create policies to prevent, report and investigate child sexual abuse?

In 1991, the Diocese of Arlington instituted its Policy on the Prevention of Sexual Misconduct and/or Child Abuse. The policy described the purpose as follows: “The policy is intended to establish requirements and procedures in an effort to prevent possible sexual misconduct and/or child abuse by personnel of the diocese and the resulting harm to others, while the work of the diocese is being performed, and to provide guidance to the diocesan personnel on how to respond to actual and/or suspected incidents of sexual misconduct and/or child abuse by personnel of the diocese.” It applied to all diocesan staff, clergy and volunteers.

 

In 2002, the U.S. Bishops issued the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, which is a comprehensive set of procedures for addressing allegations of sexual abuse of minors by Catholic clergy. It also established guidelines for reconciliation, healing, accountability, and prevention of future acts of abuse that all staff and volunteers are held strictly accountable to. It has been revised 3 times (2005, 2011, and 2018) in order to account for the latest advancements in best practices. 

 

For more information on the Charter, CLICK HERE

Who must undergo a background check?

 

According to the Diocese of Arlington's Policy on the Protection of Children/Young People and the Prevention of Sexual Misconduct and/or Child Abuse, all employees of the Catholic Diocese of Arlington--all direct employees of any parish, diocesan school or diocesan office--regardless of contact with children must complete a background check.  Additionally, any volunteer with ministry with substantial contact with children must complete a background check.  However, background checks alone are not sufficient for compliance with the policy.

Additional information about the background check process of the Diocese of Arlington can be found on our Background Checks page.

Which adults must attend training?

According to the Diocese of Arlington's Policy on the Protection of Children/Young People and the Prevention of Sexual Misconduct and/or Child Abuse, all employees of the Catholic Diocese of Arlington--all direct employees of any parish, diocesan school or diocesan office--regardless of contact with children must attend safe environment training.  Additionally, any volunteer with ministry with "substantial contact" with children must attend safe environment training.  However, training attendance alone is not sufficient for compliance with the policy.

Additional information about adult safe environment training in the Diocese of Arlington can be found on our VIRTUS: Protecting God's Children for Adults Training page.

When do I need to fill out paperwork or attend training?

If you are required to comply with the Policy, background check paperwork must be submitted to the Office of Child Protection prior to the start of employment or volunteer ministry.  The required training must be completed within 45 days of the start of your service.