Catholic Church Child Protection Policy

Clergy sexual abuse against children has a disturbing history that dates as far back as the establishment of the Roman Catholic Church itself. Accounts of the Church responding to these cases stem back about 500 years ago when it faced its first public sexual abuse scandal regarding alleged improper relations between priests and female parishioners during confession. Only recently, however, has the Church begun to take action against modern child sexual abuse cases with proactive child protection policies.

United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Charter for Child and Youth Protection

In 2002, a groundbreaking story from the Boston Globe shed light on an issue that had pervaded the Roman Catholic Church for centuries: child sexual abuse. The news story detailed the case of a former priest with allegations against him of abusing 130 minors over more than 30 years. The story, which won the Boston Globe a Pulitzer Prize, was the beginning of a change in the way the Catholic Church handled sexual abuse cases. Most notably, it led to the creation of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Charter for Child and Youth Protection.

The charter makes it mandatory for dioceses and eparchies to provide resources for survivors of abuse, as well as resources to churches for sexual abuse prevention. It assists bishops on all matters of child protection and oversees the development of related plans and programs in churches. Although progress has been slow, the USCCB charter has laid the groundwork for Catholic churches throughout the country to prevent sexual abuse and to report known incidents to authorities. The Archdiocese of New York, for example, has trained over 100,000 people on how to provide safe religious environments for children.

The charter’s establishment may have worked to reduce the prevalence of abuse within the Catholic Church, but allegations against priests have continued to flood in from almost every state. Dioceses around the country have since published lists with the names of thousands of alleged offenders with credible accusations against them for child sexual abuse. Dioceses in California alone have named almost 700 alleged sexual abusers in the clergy. The publication of these lists is one of the latest steps the Roman Catholic Church has taken toward eradicating clergy sexual abuse and protecting children.

The Vatican’s Commission on Child Protection

Another source of child protection from the Catholic Church comes directly from the Vatican. The Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors is a new effort from the Pope to help local churches prevent clergy child abuse. The Vatican created a commission of members ranging from actual sexual abuse survivors to people who also act on the Council of Eight Cardinals (the group that advises the Pope). 

The Commission’s job is to advocate for survivors, teach churches how to prevent and detect abuse, create training programs for clergy members who work with children, and hold bishops accountable when they breach their child protection policies. The formation of the Commission for the Protection of Minors is the Catholic Church’s latest effort to protect children from clergy sexual abuse.

Is the Catholic Church Responsible for Child Sexual Abuse?

Roman Catholic Church child protection policies are relatively new in the fight against sexual abuse by clergy members. While these efforts have helped spread awareness and prevent incidents of clergy sexual abuse, they do not erase the decades of past abuse that have injured thousands of people. Today, survivors of clergy sexual abuse may have legal options available to them.

At Manly, Stewart & Finaldi, we represent survivors of clergy abuse throughout California. We have award-winning attorneys who have devoted their lives to helping survivors fight for justice, advocate for change within the Catholic Church and obtain compensation for their damages. We may be able to help you hold an individual, the church and/or the diocese accountable for the life-changing trauma you or a loved one suffered. Discuss your case confidentially with an attorney today at (855) 204-3493.