In his New Year’s letter to priests of the diocese, Bishop Jaime Soto again affirmed his commitment to caring for the victims of clergy sexual abuse and to atoning for the sins of the past. This atoning, Bishop Soto said, is a lifetime commitment, and is central to our responsibility as Catholics.
“I want to assure each of you personally that my focus remains steadfastly on the well-being of the victims of sexual abuse and the safety of all God’s people who put their trust in our parishes, schools and programs,” Bishop Soto said.
The following is a summary of how our diocese puts that responsibility into action.
The 2002 Charter
Established in June of 2002, the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People was created by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) as a means to create a system of accountability of all dioceses throughout the United States. The Charter serves as a guide in ensuring that dioceses have put into place best practices and accountability for the protection of children and those who are vulnerable. The Charter was revised in 2005, 2011, and most recently, in 2018.
The Charter directs action in the following matters:
- Creating a safe environment for children and young people
- Healing and reconciliation of victims and survivors
- Making prompt and effective response to allegations
- Cooperating with civil authorities
- Disciplining offenders
- Providing for means of accountability for the future to ensure the problem continues to be effectively dealt with through the Secretariat of Child and Youth Protection and the National Review Board
In order to create a safe environment for children and those who are vulnerable, each diocese in the United States must have in place:
- An established and thorough method for background checking clergy, volunteers and employees
- An approved curriculum for training clergy, volunteers and employees on how to recognize and report abuse
- An approved safe environment curriculum for youth
All clergy, employees and volunteers are required to complete a Live Scan fingerprinting background check. Volunteers are cleared through the Department of Justice. Clergy and employees are cleared through the Department of Justice and FBI. In addition, all clergy who have served internationally are cleared through the respective countries, where they have served.
Safe Haven Training
In addition to background checks, all clergy, employees and volunteers are required to complete a child abuse recognition and reporting program. This training is designed to help adults in our diocese recognize potential abuse and act quickly on behalf of the children and young people entrusted to them. The training is completed through Safe Haven and has to be renewed every three years. This three-part video series identifies real-life abuse and neglect situations that volunteers and employees may encounter. It increases awareness of and sensitivity to grooming techniques, social media interaction and boundary issues. The training also covers the different types of abuse and neglect. Most important, the training makes clear to everyone who serves in our diocese that our policies for the protection of youth must be understood, accepted and followed at all times.
Circle of Grace
Circle of Grace is the designated training program for children enrolled in faith formation and diocesan schools. Circle of Grace is taught each year with lessons unique to each grade level. Circle of Grace serves a dual purpose – it educates youth about the value of positive relationships with God and others, and it equips them to protect their personal boundaries. Through the Circle of Grace program, children and youth are taught to: identify and insist upon appropriate physical, emotion and spiritual boundaries; recognize when these boundaries are not being respected by another; and how to take action when boundaries are threatened or violated.
Each year, the Diocese of Sacramento is audited by an outside agency for safe environment compliance. Every three years, the diocese participates in an on-site audit. Compliance is based upon inquiry, observation and review of specifically requested documentation. Every year, the Diocese of Sacramento has been found to be in full compliance with the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People and the auditors.
Independent Review Board
An Independent Review Board that includes lay experts in criminal justice, psychology and child welfare advises the Bishop of Sacramento in the assessment of all allegations of abuse of minors. This review board brings outside expertise and a focused commitment to child safety, and advises on whether an accused cleric is suitable for ministry. In addition, the board regularly reviews the diocese’s policies and procedures for dealing with the abuse of minors.
Victim Assistance Coordinator
The Diocese of Sacramento provides a pastoral care coordinator to assist persons who have suffered sexual abuse by members of the Catholic clergy and other Catholic Church workers. The Pastoral Care Coordinator arranges for professional counseling and resources. The toll-free number to reach the Victim Assistance Coordinator and to report abuse is 866-777-9133. Reports can be taken in English and Spanish.
Anyone who has reason to believe abuse of a child or young person by clergy, employees or volunteers in any of the dioceses’ schools or programs has occurred, or could occur, is encouraged to report this immediately. It is important to understand that you need not wait for proof or certainty that abuse occurred. If you suspect abuse, please report it immediately. Reports should be made first to law enforcement or other civil authorities (child protective services or adult protective services) and then to the Diocese of Sacramento via the toll-free line at 866-777-9133.
The Diocese of Sacramento pledges its commitment to solid and enduring programs and policies that will: protect children and young people, foster vigilance on the part of all our staff and volunteers to keep children and those who are vulnerable safe, and help heal the pain caused by abuse and bring lasting peace to victims. We are trusted by the faithful to bring compassion and aid to all God’s children and to dedicate ourselves to that sacred responsibility.
- Safe Environment – Diocese of Sacramento: www.scd.org/safe-environment
- Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People (English and Spanish): www.usccb.org/charter
- For safe environment and ministry and family resources: www.scd.org/safe-environment/ministry-family-resources