How the Diocese handles allegations of sexual abuse

The following are some aspects of how allegations of child sexual abuse by clergy are addressed in the Diocese of Arlington:

  • All allegations are immediately reported to legal authorities. The diocese cooperates fully with any law enforcement investigation. 
  • All allegations are also forwarded to the diocesan Victim Assistance Coordinator so that outreach to the alleged victim can begin immediately.
  • After a prompt 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 disclosing the allegation and requesting persons with relevant information to contact law enforcement and the diocese.  The Diocese maintains transparency and openness insofar as possible throughout the process.
  • The diocesan investigation is conducted by individuals designated by the Moderator of the Curia.  These individuals 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.  The Review Board members, a majority of whom are lay Catholics, include professionals with expertise in the pastoral, educational, legal (canon and civil), medical, psychological, and sociological dimensions of such situations.
  • The Review Board reaches a determination as to whether the allegation is credible, and advises the Bishop regarding the accused cleric’s suitability for ministry. [1]
  • The determination of the Review Board is independent of that of law enforcement.  The Review Board may find an allegation to be credible even if law enforcement determines that the 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 the appropriate canonical action, up to and including laicization.

 


[1] Note:  A determination by the Review Board that an allegation is “credible” is not the equivalent of a civil or criminal court finding of innocence or guilt, nor is it a final determination or admission that an incident occurred as alleged.  It is instead an ecclesiastical advisory determination of whether the definition of “credible accusation” in the Child Protection Policy has been met for purposes of further canonical or pastoral action by the Bishop.  The Review Board does not have access to the investigative tools and resources available to civil authorities and does not follow civil law procedural or evidentiary rules.