In 2002, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) instituted the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, more commonly known as the Dallas Charter. In it, the U.S. bishops made four pledges in their efforts of protect children:
1. We pledge most solemnly to you, God’s people, that we will work to our utmost for the protection of children and youth.
2. We pledge that we will devote to this goal the resources and personnel necessary to accomplish it.
3. We pledge that we will do our best to ordain to the diaconate and priesthood and put into positions of trust only those who share this commitment to protecting youth and children.
4. We pledge that we will work toward healing and reconciliation for those sexually abused by clerics.
Since then, all U.S. dioceses have been required to put into place the practices outlined in the Charter to guarantee that all parishes and Catholic schools are among the safest places possible for a minor. Further, the Charter is reviewed every seven years to ensure its practices are of the highest standards.
Promote healing and reconciliation
• Continual pastoral outreach to survivors and their families
• A victim assistance coordinator to assist with the immediate pastoral care of survivors
• A review board made up mostly of lay people not in the employ of the diocese
• No secret settlements (unless by request)
Guarantee effective response
• Mandatory reporting of any allegation to public authorities immediately
• Cooperation with all civil and local authorities
• “Zero Tolerance” – Priests with substantiated allegations are to be permanently removed from ministry (faculties removed), and if warranted, dismissed from the clerical state (laicized)
• Transparency in communicating with the public about the sexual abuse of minors by clergy
• Yearly diocesan audits of compliance
• National Committee and Review Board to advise USCCB
• National resources available for every diocese
• Publish an annual public report on the progress made in implementing this Charter
Protect the faithful
• “Safe Environment” training for all priests, deacons, staff and volunteers who work with children
• “Safe Environment” education for school and religious education studentsn
• Mandatory background checks on all priests, deacons, staff and volunteers who work with children
• Rigorous screening and psychological evaluations for those seeking to be ordained as clergy
To read the full Charter Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, click here.