The Word from Lansing: Twenty Years After Charter, Church is a Safe Place for Children
Posted September 15, 2023
The clergy abuse crisis inflicted on today’s Catholics has been a tragic chapter for the Church, especially for those individuals and families who have suffered physically, emotionally, and spiritually. It has also been disappointing and infuriating for Catholics who have repeatedly witnessed reports about the failures of some Church leaders. Yet amidst the tragedy and scandal, there is hope for renewal and healing.
In the wake of the clergy scandal that broke in 2002, the U.S. Church set out for reform by adopting the Dallas Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People. The Dallas Charter set the standards for how dioceses and parishes prevent abuse and handle allegations against clergy. The implementation of the Charter over the past 20 years has since resulted in massive culture change within the Church, placing the protection of children front and center.
To help advance understanding and awareness of this cultural change within the Church, the upcoming edition of Michigan Catholic Conference’s quarterly Focus publication shares how the Church in Michigan works to protect children and prevent abuse through safe environment protocols considered among the strongest in the nation.
Today, an extensive and determined process oversees any allegation of abuse that occurs. In Michigan, if an allegation comes forward, the diocese will send the claim to law enforcement while alerting a review board of mostly laypersons to study the allegation. To protect children, every diocese employs safe environment programs in its parishes and schools to ensure adults are vetted and trained to protect both children and vulnerable adults. Further, every diocese across the country — including in Michigan — has a designated professional available to receive and report allegations of abuse and to provide support and resources to survivors.
Additionally, an independent third-party compliance auditing firm regularly reviews dioceses’ compliance with Charter requirements. The results of these reviews are published on an annual basis, and each of Michigan’s dioceses have been reviewed within the past three years and they have all passed those audits.
Readers of MCC’s Focus will learn about a clergy abuse victim whose journey to healing included attending a diocesan-led retreat for survivors. She later became a retreat co-leader to encourage others to make the same journey, serving as an example of the many people within the Church who stand ready to walk with survivors toward healing.
The publication also introduces dedicated professionals who work with the Church in Michigan whose ministry is to protect children and serve abuse survivors. From the victim assistance coordinators to the safe environment coordinators to the lay people who serve on diocesan review boards, the Church in Michigan is blessed by many competent and compassionate people committed to making the Church a safe place for children.
The intent of this Focus is for Catholics to learn more about what the Church has done and continues to do in response to the clergy abuse scandal. Readers will come away with greater confidence that the Church is committed to protecting children and preventing abuse.
To access a print copy of the latest Focus, please inquire at your parish. Additional free copies are available to be ordered by contacting MCC. An online edition of Focus, which includes additional video interviews, can be found at micatholic.org/protectkids.