Diocese Announces New Measures to Enhance Child Protection Program

As part of his ongoing commitment to the protection of young people in our Diocese, Bishop Mark Brennan released the attached letter to all priests, parish staff, school staff and volunteers to announce additional measures to enhance the Child Protection program.

The letter details new requirements for all those who work and volunteer in our parishes and schools in any capacity. Please read the letter to learn more about these new protocols as well as other steps being taken to ensure the safety of our young people.

If you serve within your parish or school and these new protocols apply to your ministry, more information will be released to you soon from the Office of Safe Environment.

 

Dear brothers and sisters in ministry,

One of my priorities as your Bishop has been to ensure that our parishes, schools, youth groups and camps are safe for young people. To that end I have worked in concert with our Child Protection Office, headed by Sharon Goudy, and our independent lay-led Review Board to put the sad legacy of child abuse by clergy and other Church personnel well behind us. From what I have seen, our efforts have made a great difference.

Today, I write to inform you about another measure to enhance our Child Protection program. Following the recommendation of the third-party firm that audits all the dioceses of the United States for compliance with the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People and as a matter of best practice, I am implementing yearly continuing Safe Environment education, starting this year. Going forward, yearly Safe Environment continuing education will be required of all diocesan employees and volunteers. This will entail completion of a yearly module and monthly bulletins for all employees and volunteers.

Keeping this matter in the forefront of our minds is critical to maintaining a safe environment for the young and for vulnerable adults where they worship, study, recreate and camp. More information will be sent to you from the Office of Safe Environment regarding the timeline and details for completing this yearly training.

We expect to implement this continuing education in phases and will rely primarily on our existing awareness training provider, VIRTUS. With an electronic platform and a built-in tracking mechanism, VIRTUS makes it convenient and easy to complete and document training. Look for more specific information and direction from the Office of Safe Environment in the coming weeks.

I am proud to report that our Safe Environment program has gained strength in the past few years, so that we have reached levels of compliance never before achieved. This is to the good of our young people and vulnerable adults. We must continue to move forward on this path for the benefit of those whom the Lord calls us to serve.

Not long before my arrival in August, 2019, the Diocese released a list of clergy credibly accused of child abuse, an important gesture that served as a catalyst for the healing process in West Virginia. Since then, other important steps have been taken to upgrade our protection efforts. Among them are:

  • mandatory fingerprinting and FBI background checks for priests, deacons, seminarians and Catholic school personnel;
  • consolidating the recordkeeping of compliance data through VIRTUS to allow employees and volunteers to work smarter, not harder, leaving them more time for ministry;
  • contracting with a third-party reporting system called EthicsPoint to capture concerns regarding clergy as well as employees and volunteers;
  • on-site audits every year by a third-party firm utilized by the Bishops’ Conference rather than every three years (the Charter’s mandate) and other audits performed by our fingerprinting firm, Corporate Security Investigations, in our Catholic schools;
  • expanding since 2023 the scope of the independent Review Board to include not only sexual abuse of minors by clergy in accordance with the Charter but also inappropriate behavior toward adults, including but not limited to boundary violations, harassment, sexual harassment, grooming and financial improprieties. (The Review Board consists of experts in human resources, mental health, medicine and law enforcement.)
  • revising the Safe Environment section of the dwc.org website to include more information and be more transparent; and
  • publishing annually the Diocese’s financial audit report.

My desire, which I trust you share, is to make our parishes, schools, youth groups and camps as safe as possible for our children, young people and vulnerable adults in order that they may flourish physically, mentally and spiritually as children of God. They deserve this effort on our part. I count on you to join me in making it happen.

Thank you for your service to God and those who benefit from your efforts. May God bless you and keep you close to Him.

Sincerely in Christ,

+Mark E. Brennan
Bishop of Wheeling-Charleston

May 21st, 2024
2024-06-18T16:56:12-04:00
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