Promise to Protect, Pledge to Heal
Safe Environment Training
The Diocese of Phoenix is committed to protecting all children and young people by offering several abuse prevention educational sessions.
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USCCB Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People
The Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People is a comprehensive set of procedures established by the USCCB in June 2002 for addressing allegations of sexual abuse of minors by Catholic clergy. The Charter also includes guidelines for reconciliation, healing, accountability, and prevention of future acts of abuse.
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Ten Years of the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People
To the Faithful of the Diocese of Phoenix,
The Diocese of Phoenix’s commitment to the “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People” remains an important part of the work of the local Church. The “work” that can bring true healing to those who have been abused and to their families is the work of the Lord Jesus. His words from the Gospel according to John, state, “The works that the Father gave me to accomplish, these works that I perform testify on my behalf that the Father has sent me” Jn 5:35. Jesus Christ alone has the merciful love that is stronger than sin and more powerful than death. He accomplishes this work of healing by becoming both priest and victim, by acting as priest and victim in His Passion and Resurrection. As priest and victim, Jesus makes His own the suffering and death of every human person, and He transforms them by His love. We call this work of Christ the Paschal Mystery.
Since 2002, when the U.S. Bishops adopted what is often referred to as the “Dallas Charter,” we have made great strides in fulfilling our promise to protect children and youth and to bring healing to those who have suffered abuse. The abuse of children by clergy has caused deep hurt and diminished trust within both the Church and society. Yet in the midst of everything, we know in faith that Jesus can bring healing to those who have been abused, their families and the communities affected. We also know He gives us the grace and the mission to do our part to be instruments of His healing. This report is an important milestone in our commitment and service — it is 10 years this fall since the Diocese of Phoenix began the implementation of the Charter. Now is a time for us as a Church to look back at what we have learned, to again remember in prayer those who have been abused and to recommit ourselves to vigilance in our Catholic community to protect our children from the evils of abuse, wherever it may occur.
It has been important to recognize the seriousness of the abuse in the Church and having recognized it, to respond immediately and compassionately. In the past, individuals and systems failed to respond in appropriate ways to those who had been abused. The sexual abuse of young people and other crimes of abuse are sinful activities that undermine the common good and sow doubts and insecurity in people’s hearts. Whenever such wrongs occur, victims and families are harmed, and perpetrators are spiritually scarred. Moreover, these offenses make it difficult for anyone involved to continue to have faith in God — difficult but not impossible, for nothing is impossible with God. And in our pain, Our Lady of Sorrows, our Blessed Mother, is always near to assist and to show us the way.
We have taken great efforts to put in place systems that assist in keeping our young people safe:
- screening of all priests, deacons, religious, seminarians, employees and volunteers;
- training all those in ministry and service in keeping a safe environment for our young people;
- developing clear reporting processes;
- responding to allegations in a full, comprehensive and compassionate manner;
- investigating allegations in an objective way; and
- collaborating with others to maximize resources.
We know that this is a community effort, a kind of “Catholic Block Watch,” in which all employees, volunteers, committees, boards, trainers, parents, clergy and religious join together to provide a safe environment in which our children and youth can study, grow and experience their faith with a sense of security and trust.
What lies ahead for us in the Diocese of Phoenix? We pledge continued vigilance and ongoing commitment to the comprehensive goals provided by the “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People”:
- to promote healing and reconciliation with victims/survivors of sexual abuse of minors;
- to guarantee an effective response to allegations of sexual abuse of minors;
- to ensure the accountability of our procedures; and
- to protect the faithful in the future.
The report which follows provides information on the ways in which we in the Diocese of Phoenix have worked to restore trust and promote healing.
The Virgin Mary can help us to trust again, for she understands the pain felt by persons who have been abused and by their loved ones. She knows about sleepless nights and temptations to abandon hope. As the Mother of Jesus, priest and victim, and as our Mother too, she helps us to trust again in the words of her Son, “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest” (Mt 11.28). The Lord desires to give us rest. Healing of mind and heart may take time. But it can happen because of the love of Christ. Together with Mary, those who have been abused, their families and friends, indeed all of us, can enter into the presence of Christ her Son. In communion with Mary, we also pray for perpetrators of abuse, that they will repent and make amends for their sins through the grace of Christ.
Only in Christ is it possible to find peace in this world. Healing and wholeness evade us apart from Him. The peace our hearts long for is one that the world cannot give. But it is poured into our hearts by Jesus. Through His work in our midst, He can heal the broken-hearted. He can renew our hope.
I pray that this report will be another step in this journey of faith, hope and healing.
+Thomas J. Olmsted
Bishop of Phoenix