Since 2002, the Diocese of Cleveland has maintained a website, “Protecting God’s Children,” that offers information and resources relating to diocesan policies regarding the safety of children and standards of conduct for ministry. There is a link to the site above the banner on the diocesan home page.
The Protecting God’s Children site also contains information about clerics who since April 2002 have been placed on administrative leave, removed from ministry and/or laicized as a result of allegations of sexual misconduct with minors, regardless of when the abuse is alleged to have occurred. The first of such listings was posted in April 2002, and there have been numerous updates since then. This information can be found by clicking on the “News and Notices” line in the index on the left side of the page.
Work is under way to convert the information into a list format that will be easier to read. A review is also being conducted to ensure that the information is comprehensive and includes the names of those clerics, whether living or deceased, who we can determine were removed from ministry prior to April 2002 as a result of allegations of sexual misconduct with a minor.
Since the adoption of its “Policy for the Safety of Children in Matters of Sexual Abuse” in 2003, the diocese has been committed to immediately reporting all allegations of sexual abuse of minors by a cleric to both civil authorities and the diocesan Review Board and to ensuring that credibly accused clerics are removed from ministry. That policy states that a cleric is permanently removed from ministry if any of the following occur:
- The cleric admits to sexually abusing a minor
- The cleric is found guilty of sexually abusing a minor in a criminal court of law
- The Review Board finds that all of the evidence shows that it is more likely than not that the cleric sexually abused a minor.
Since 2003 the diocese also has been proactive in mandating criminal background checks and training of church personnel. To date, nearly 154,000 diocesan staff and volunteers — including clergy, religious, lay ecclesial ministers, school administrators, staff, teachers, directors of religious education, catechists and teachers – have received mandatory VIRTUS training and criminal background checks. VIRTUS is a nationally recognized program that teaches employees and volunteers about how to identify potential acts of sexual abuse as well as how to properly handle and report them.
“I ask that the entire Diocese of Cleveland pray for all the survivors of sexual and all types of abuse and for the guidance of Christ through the healing process. Together with our staff and organizations within the diocese, we strive to ensure that all preventative measures are taken and that allegations of abuse are reported to the proper authorities,” said Bishop Nelson Perez.
He reinforced that the Protecting God’s Children program, created in 2003, is a continuing effort to instruct and inform everyone about the protection of children from sexual abuse. The program structure includes an annual independent audit and monthly communications to parishes, in addition to its strict training requirements and mandatory criminal background checks.
“We must continue to pray for resilience and healing for those who have been hurt so deeply and continue to create safe environments for our young people and those most vulnerable,” the bishop said.
“The diocese is committed to protecting children and helping to heal those who have been hurt by abuse. We are deeply sorry for the pain suffered by survivors of abuse due to actions of some members of clergy. Any person with information or those just seeking help can reach the diocesan confidential response line by phone at 216-334-2999 or online at email@example.com,” Bishop Perez added.