I am happy to share with you some recent information regarding our efforts to protect youth and young people.  The week of July 11, our diocese received our annual “audit” to make sure we are in compliance with the Dallas Charter.  This week, we received the official letter from the audit group, StoneBridge Business Partners, that our diocese is in compliance with the The Dallas Charter.

The Dallas Charter was approved by the US Bishop’s Conference in June 2002 to address the Bishops’ committment to deal appropriately and effectively with cases of sexual abuse of minors by priests, deacons, and other church personnel.  In the Charter, the bishops acknowledge the great pain caused by the abuse of minors by priests, deacons and bishops, as well as the pain created by our lack of a proper response to such injustices.

The Dallas Charter & Essential Norms that followed are the guiding documents for every bishop and diocese to appropriately handle accusations of abuse.  It gives very specific directives regarding the proper response to victims of abuse and their families, as well as guidelines for procedures of reporting and investigating such accusations.

The Dallas Charter led to the implementation of a standing office within the Conference of Bishops, the Office for Child and Youth Protection, whose primary responsibility is to give guidance for a consistent, ongoing and comprehensive approach to creating a secure environment for young people throughout the Church in the US.  The Charter also mandated the formation of a National Review Board, and Review Boards in every diocese, Victim Assistance Coordinators in dioceses and the establishment of a Safe Environment Program in every diocese.

The Charter and the Essential Norms go into many other details, but the above description gives some broad understanding of the responsibility every bishop and every diocese has to properly investigate all accusations of misconduct and to make sure that all Church employees and volunteers are properly trained.  The annual audit is our own effort to show that every bishop and diocese is following the Dallas Charter and the Essential Norms.

Through our Safe Environment Program we have trained all parish and school employees, and of course, all our priests, deacons, candidates for ordination, educators and diocesan employees receive such training as well. Annually, through our schools and religious education, we continue training for all our youth.  We also require training for any volunteers who work with youth.  The annual audit requires us to show documentation of such training, such as times, locations, and numbers of people who attended.  The audit also requires that we show evidence that we are properly requiring background checks for any position that allows access to children.

It is important for the People of God to realize that the Dallas Charter and the Essential Norms give great guidance for the proper actions necessary for protecting our youth, young people, elderly and vulnerable.  It also gives sound directives how to appropriately respond to victims of abuse and properly investigate such accusations.  It is also helpful for our people to realize that the Dallas Charter and Norms are not some nice documents just sitting on a shelf, but are regularly reviewed, and our performance is audited every year by an independent firm.  This is our effort as bishops to hold ourselves accountable to our own guidelines.

I as your bishop, and we as a diocese are fully committed to anyone who has been abused by a priest, deacon, or any employee or volunteer of the Church.  I wish to express again my deep sorrow to all who have been abused by a member of the Church.  I pray regularly for your healing, and am ready to meet personally with anyone who has been abused if I can be of any assistance to them.