Our Efforts in the Protection of Children
A letter from our Superior General to friends, benefactors and interested visitors regarding the child sex abuse scandal in the Catholic Church
Dear Maryknoll friend,
The Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers are horrified by the harm and pain inflicted upon children and vulnerable adults on the part of priests, religious and other Church workers who betrayed their trust and sexually assaulted or abused them.
We are also appalled by the inexcusable response on the part of a number of bishops here and around the world that caused even more pain and suffering for victims. We call upon our Church and the members of our own Maryknoll Society to do everything possible to end this affliction.
A significant portion of our mission work involves services for children and vulnerable adults. Maryknoll is committed to provide a safe environment for every person who comes in contact with our priests, Brothers and employees. We conduct thorough background checks on all vocations to the Society. We do everything possible to respond promptly to allegations of abuse and to treat victims with respect, dignity and compassion. We have implemented a policy of zero tolerance that includes permanent removal from ministry of those named in a credible allegation of abuse. We offer to provide a therapeutic and pastoral response to all victims who present credible claims. We strive for complete transparency in settling any matters that might involve a member of Maryknoll.
As priests and Brothers who have answered God’s calling to serve the poor and marginalized of the world, our lives have been profoundly affected by this crisis in our Church. I believe that the present crisis is a call to all of us to do everything possible to protect children and vulnerable adults: in our Church, in our schools, in our communities, and anywhere else that they might be vulnerable to an act that violates them in any way.
Maryknollers strive to support victims of sexual abuse and their families whom we might encounter in our mission work. We are making a concerted effort to prevent such heinous acts from ever happening again.
To that end, in 1992 the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers constituted a Review Board of local professionals to assist us in determining the credibility of any allegation of the sexual abuse of a minor or vulnerable adult. At the same time, we began to specify policies and procedures for the reporting of any incident of sexual misconduct. In our ongoing efforts we have adopted and implemented the Standards for Accreditation for Praesidium®, Inc. (download PDF) through the Conference for Major Superiors of Men (CMSM) to “…rid the Church of the scourge of the sexual abuse of minors and open pathways of reconciliation and healing for those who were abused.” (Letter of His Holiness Pope Francis to the Presidents of the Episcopal Conferences and Superiors of Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life Concerning the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, February 2, 2015). All allegations of the sexual abuse of a minor or vulnerable adult are referred to Maryknoll’s Review Board to determine the credibility of such allegations.
I encourage you to learn more about Maryknoll’s compliance with the Standards for Accreditation of Praesidium®, Inc. (see our FAQs). Since 2007, we have received Praesidium’s accreditation for promoting the highest standards of safety for children and vulnerable adults within our ministries.
In closing, there is nothing that can truly assuage the pain, anger, and lifelong damage that child sexual abuse has caused. But, I do want to assure you that the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers is taking this tragedy very seriously and is making every effort to bring about hope and healing. We are determined to ensure that these crimes never happen again, and to reach out with compassion to the victims.
I offer my prayers, and the prayers of our missioners around the world, in the hopes that the God who binds up the wounds of the brokenhearted will heal each and every victim, their families and all the faithful who are suffering because of these crimes. May the Lord richly bless you through His Son, Jesus Christ, and “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13
Peace be with you.
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Rev. Raymond Finch, M.M.
Maryknoll welcomes any questions or comments you may have – email us.
The narratives herein by no means represent every standard for prevention, response and supervision, but are meant to be a general overview. Please refer to the PDF document for the comprehensive enumeration of ALL standards for accreditation with Praesidium.
For a deeper explanation of what Praesidium is and its strict standards by which Maryknoll abides, explore the FAQs below:
What is Praesidium®, Inc.?
Praesidium®, Inc. is a risk management company that was contracted by the Conference of Major Superiors of Men (CMSM) to put into operation and then audit The Dallas Charter and its “Essential Norms for Diocesan/Eparchial Policies Dealing with Allegations of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Priests or Deacons”. It entails the stringent implementation of standards and regulations for the protection of children.
Praesidium requires that Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers, and all other religious institutions under their umbrella, adhere to written standards of child protection — these are divided into three sections: 1) prevention; 2) response; and 3) supervision.
Some of the more important points include:
• The backgrounds of candidates for admission to Maryknoll are carefully screened, including intensive background checks;
• All Society Members and Candidates are required to attend annual training programs in child protection;
• All Society Members are trained as Mandated Reporters of child abuse and neglect;
• Each Member of the Society is under the supervision of his Superior, and undergoes an annual review;
• Maryknoll has detailed policies in addressing reports of abuse toward children and vulnerable people;
• Maryknoll thoroughly investigates all allegations and complaints of abuse, responding in as timely a manner as possible;
• Allegation investigations are referred to Maryknoll’s Review Board, a committee comprised of community-based professionals, to determine the credibility of an allegation;
• Society Members with a credible allegation of child abuse or abuse of a vulnerable person are permanently removed from ministry and placed under supervision.
How is Praesidium related to 'The Dallas Charter'?
According to the USCCB, The Dallas Charter, or “The Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People” is a comprehensive set of procedures originally 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. It was revised in 2005, 2011, and 2018.
The Charter directs action in all 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 2012, the Bishops reassembled regarding the Charter and upheld the concept of zero-tolerance, which meant that anyone under a credible allegation of abuse against children would never be allowed to re-enter public ministry, and would live with an enormous amount of supervision. In addition, they included references to child pornography and protections for “vulnerable people” — the elderly or mentally and/or physically challenged adults — in this revised document.
'Praesidium Standards for Accreditation' — What are its Preventative Measures?
The first section of the “Praesidium Standards for Accreditation” addresses preventative measures.
All prospective candidates — American and international — are vetted carefully. Elements such as criminal background checks, personal and professional references, social media presence, and psychological evaluations are used as part of the screening process. In formation, emphasis is placed on fraternity and educating members about how to develop mature, integrated sexuality as a foundation for celibate life.
Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers require that—not only every Member in the US and abroad in public ministry — but every Member who is physically and psychologically able, attend the equivalent of one hour of training in child protection per year. If a Member does not complete the training requirement, he will lose good standing with Maryknoll, and therefore cannot be recommended to perform any sacramental work until the requirement is met.
Maryknoll utilizes systems of support and accountability for all its Members through annual assemblies and retreats, days of reflection, spiritual direction, spiritual and educational events and annual reviews of each member by his superior. These reviews include an assessment of the individual’s physical, psychological, and spiritual health, as well as his ministerial behavior — all indicators of suitability for continued ministry.
'Praesidium Standards for Accreditation' — What about Response to Allegations of Abuse?
The second section of the “Praesidium Standards for Accreditation” addresses how Maryknoll responds to complaints and allegations of abuse.
All allegations and complaints presented to Maryknoll are investigated and followed up — regardless of the reporter of the event—and includes events reported anonymously. Maryknoll responds pastorally and with compassion to any person who alleges sexual abuse of a minor by a Member. Effort is made to begin the healing process from the moment an allegation is reported, while at the same time, strictly adhering to our written policies and procedures for responding to an allegation.
An essential element to responding to an allegation of abuse is the participation of non-Maryknoll individuals who comprise the Maryknoll Review Board. After reviewing investigation reports, the Review Board determines the credibility of allegations and recommends resulting actions to the Superior General of Maryknoll. All Review Board members must be familiar with: “The Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People”; “The Essential Norms for Diocesan/Eparchial Policies Dealing with Allegations of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Priests or Deacons; the 2002 CMSM Statement of the Assembly”; the “Praesidium Accreditation for Standards”, and the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers policies and procedures. Professional expertise in the area of child development and child abuse, as well as familiarity with legal issues in child protection is also required for membership on the Board.
Additionally, priests in most states within the United States are mandated reporters of child abuse and neglect. All Society Members who are in ministry — and even some in retirement — have participated in training programs in mandatory reporting. In the more than 20 countries where Maryknoll missioners serve, Members are required to report suspected cases of child abuse in accordance with the reporting criteria of that country.
Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers abides by all laws pertaining to reporting to civil authorities in the countries where their Members serve.
'Praesidium Standards for Accreditation' — What about Supervision and Restrictions?
Praesidium standards for supervision require that anyone who is found to have a credible allegation against him — a credible allegation is defined as “likely to have happened” — is to be placed on a “safety plan”.
The safety plan explains what types of restrictions the individual is held to. Safety plans are reviewed annually by the Review Board.
What is the Maryknoll Review Board?
The Maryknoll Review Board:
• Reviews the investigation of all allegations of child abuse and determines the credibility of the allegations.
• Provides advice and consultation to Maryknoll’s Superior General regarding matters of child abuse and child protection.
• Annually reviews the safety plans of those with credible allegations to ensure compliance with safety, legal and policy requirements.
• Is comprised of five or more (non-Maryknoll) professionals from the local community who are experts in the fields of law enforcement, law, mental health and child development.
• Meets twice yearly with ad hoc meetings as necessary.