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, if the allegation meets a preliminary threshold of credibility, the accused cleric is relieved of his assignment and placed on administrative leave. He may not live at a parish or present himself as a priest/deacon while the investigation proceeds. 
  • An announcement is published at parishes and any diocesan institution where the accused cleric has served. The announcement discloses the allegation and requests that anyone with relevant information contact legal authorities and the Diocese. 
  • The diocesan investigation is conducted by individuals designated by the Moderator of the Curia. They may include outside investigators or other experts. Care is taken to avoid any interference with the law enforcement investigation. This may be done by working in conjunction with law enforcement if possible or by deferring the diocesan investigation until the law enforcement investigation is complete.
  • When the diocesan investigation is complete, all evidence is considered by the Diocesan Review Board, which is made up of mostly lay men and women with professional expertise in fields such as canon and civil law, medicine, psychology, counseling, etc.
  • The Review Board determines whether the allegation is credible and advises the Bishop regarding the accused cleric’s suitability for ministry.
  • No cleric with a credible allegation of sexual abuse against a minor may return to ministry.
  • The determination by the Review Board is independent of that by law enforcement. The Review Board may find an allegation to be credible even if law enforcement determines that evidence is not sufficient for a criminal prosecution. 
  • If an act of child abuse by the accused cleric is admitted or established, the Bishop will take appropriate canonical action, up to and including laicization.