The Roman Catholic Diocese of Phoenix is Committed to Safety, Healing, Reconciliation and Accountability
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Phoenix has made great strides in fulfilling our promise to protect children, educate our communities, and bring healing to those who have suffered abuse. In light of recent abuse scandals, now is an important time for the Church to recall what has been learned, to keep in prayer those who are victims, and to recommit ourselves to vigilance in our Catholic community to protect our children from the evils of abuse.
The U.S. Bishops’ Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, implemented in 2002, provided for the Diocese of Phoenix mandatory procedures and guidelines that are critical to these efforts.
The Diocese of Phoenix has taken great efforts to put in place systems that assist in keeping our young people safe, including screening of all clergy, religious, seminarians, employees and volunteers. The screening process involves completing an application, interviews, signing a code of ethics, and a background check which includes reference checks and fingerprinting for all clergy, religious, seminarians, employees, and volunteer leaders responsible for youth programs. All volunteers are required to complete a standard application and sign a code of ethics. Volunteers who directly serve minors are also required to complete a face-to-face interview and submit to reference and background checks. All clergy members, employees, and volunteers are also compared to the Arizona Sex Offender Registry Database on a continuous basis. Annual training is required for those in ministry, staff and volunteers.
Other areas that are key to keeping our young people safe include:
- A comprehensive safe environment policy has been developed and put into place, which applies to every parish, school, and ministry in the Diocese;
- Annually about 30,000 adults— including clergy, religious, employees and volunteers — are trained on safe environment and mandatory reporting requirements;
- Annually about 30,000 school and religious education students receive safe environment training, including how to recognize and report inappropriate behaviors;
- A review board consisting of lay professionals was established to review and make determinations regarding any allegations against clergy. The makeup of this board includes a law enforcement officer, a licensed psychologist, a judge, a medical professional, a teacher and a parish pastor;
- A zero-tolerance policy prohibits the return to ministry of any clergy against whom a credible allegation is made; and
- Every single priest or deacon against whom a credible allegation has been made is listed on the Diocese website, so that the public and community are aware.
The Diocese of Phoenix’s Office of Child and Youth Protection assists individuals and families who have been directly affected by sexual abuse, whether this abuse took place in the Diocese of Phoenix or the dioceses of their childhood. This assistance comes in the form of counseling referrals, spiritual direction, healing Masses, referrals to community services, and facilitating meetings with Bishop Olmsted.
Additionally, the Diocese of Phoenix is among the dioceses nationwide determined to be in full compliance with the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People. The Diocese of Phoenix has been audited annually since 2003, including an on-site audit in 2017. Recent audits were undertaken by StoneBridge Business Partners, an independent firm hired by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to determine compliance with the Charter. Phoenix has been found to be in full compliance with the Charter following each audit.
In 2004, the Diocese of Phoenix and the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office co-sponsored a historic summit on sexual abuse. It was attended by 350 people from the community and educated members of the Church, the public and the private sector on how to identify and deal with sexual misconduct against children. To this day, the Diocese of Phoenix and the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office work together on matters involving criminal allegations.
The Diocese of Phoenix is committed to continuing these vital safeguards as we strive to promote healing and reconciliation with victims of sexual abuse; to guarantee an effective response to allegations; to ensure the accountability of our procedures; and to protect the faithful in the future.
We encourage anyone who has been a victim of abuse to call a local law enforcement agency. For additional information about support services for those who have been abused, please contact the Office of Child and Youth Protection at (602) 354-2396.