Vatican City, 13 April 2012 (VIS) - The annual report for 2011 on the implementation of the U.S. Church's "Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People" was presented recently in the United States. The Charter, which advocates a zero tolerance policy, was promulgated by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in 2002 and is observed by all Catholic dioceses in the country. It contains a series of rules and makes prevision for periodic checks to control efficiency and determine the need for any further improvements.
According to an article in the "Osservatore Romano", the results for 2011 throw light on ongoing efforts to ensure the protection of children and young people from sexual abuse by the clergy, a commitment which constitutes a priority for the local Church. The report shows that almost all the the archdioceses, dioceses and eparchies in the U.S.A. have respected the rules laid down in the Charter. The Charter itself was updated last year by introducing the offence of child pornography, and by placing abuse against people with disabilities on a par with abuse against minors.
The annual report includes 683 new complaints of abuse made by adults, most of which refer to incidents which took place between 1960 and 1984. Assistance programmes have been offered to the people involved and 453 of them have accepted. The report also includes twenty-one accusations presented by minors; some of these have been considered reliable by the police, three have turned out to be false and the rest are still being investigated. As for those accused, 253 have since died, 58 have been reduced to the lay state and 281 have been relieved of their pastoral duties.
The bishops note that the results must not encourage a lowering of guard. Presenting the 2011 report, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, archbishop of New York and president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, highlights how "even if most of the complaints refer to the past, the Church must remain vigilant. She must do everything possible to ensure the abuses are not repeated, We must all continue to work for complete healing and reconciliation with the victims". For the bishops, the question of abuse "is a shared priority", he says. In earlier remarks Cardinal Dolan had emphasised that all priests found guilty of "these intolerable crimes" will be permanently removed from the ministry.
The report also recalls how more than two million volunteers throughout the country have participated in training courses on protection, held in parishes and schools. Moreover, more than 4.8 million children have been taught how to recognise and protect themselves from attempts at abuse. The U.S. Church's efforts in this field include a series of initiatives culminating in the National Child Abuse Prevention Month, held each year in April.