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:

  • 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/survivor 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.


[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.