Changes made to local Safe Environment policy

It is important that we as a church – the people of God – pray for those in leadership that they will be people of integrity and faithful to the promises they have made to Christ and to the church.

In recent weeks, we have seen allegations of sexual abuse made against a cardinal and a local, former deacon who had been removed from ministry.  Other questions have been raised about how sexual abuse allegations have been handled by bishops in the U.S. and other parts of the world.

It is possible for all of us who love the church to be saddened, discouraged and perhaps even angered by the actions of church leaders who have been unfaithful to their commitments.  No one should suffer sexual abuse from anyone, especially not from a member of the clergy. There is no way to justify these actions. 

In 2002, there were serious concerns about how U.S. bishops handled these types of allegations. The Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People gave us a process to resolve these allegations and to help us, as bishops, to be transparent and accountable. 

This is an important time for church leaders to recommit themselves to the protection of children and young people. The Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People and the policy we have committed to in the Archdiocese of New Orleans are very thorough and specific. We follow these policies faithfully. Sometimes, those who do not understand the process question this, but I, along with my coworkers, are intent on being faithful to what we have promised. 

It is important that I note that the allegations we have received recently of sexual abuse of minors by members of the clergy date back approximately 30 to 40 years. Because of this, we are sometimes left with more questions than answers and cannot judge or draw conclusions about what was in the hearts and minds of those making these decisions decades ago. We know more now about sexual abuse, grooming and patterns of behavior than we knew 40 years ago.

We, as the church, are totally committed to our safe environment program. Included in this issue of the Clarion Herald is a letter I am sending to all those involved in ministry with children in our archdiocese. In many years, we have not received a credible allegation of inappropriate behavior that has taken place in the present time.  This gives evidence of vigilance by leaders in our parishes and schools.

Most importantly, I once again extend my prayerful support and apology to victims of sexual abuse. I have met with several victims through the years, and hearing their stories gives me an opportunity, in some small way, to share in their pain. However, I will never know the pain they have experienced and still are experiencing.  We, as church, must reach out to victims and accompany them in their search for healing. We must also remember and pray for those abused within families and by others in society.

Because the church is human, each of us is a saint and a sinner. Throughout the centuries, the church has experienced other grave crises, but God is faithful, and he will lead us to healing. We must learn from our mistakes, our sins and our lack of integrity and move forward with hope. 

Any questions for Archbishop Aymond may be sent to clarionherald@clarionherald.org.

 

Letter of Promulgation from Archbishop Aymond:

Archbishop Gregory Aymond has sent this “Letter of Promulgation” to local clergy, laity and religious to reiterate the Archdiocese of New Orleans’ Safe Environment policy that protects children. The archdiocese also is in the process of revising its Abuse and Neglect, Ethics and Integrity in Ministry and Background Check policies to align with the updated  USCCB’s Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.  

August 2018
Dear Clergy, Religious, and Laity of the Archdiocese of New Orleans,
During our general assembly in June, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops revised the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People. I ask that each of us, in our service to the children and youth of the Archdiocese of New Orleans, continue our deep commitment to provide safe environments for all of the minors under our pastoral care. I encourage everyone also to pray for and help victims who have experienced the harm of abuse in the past and those who may come forth with allegations now or in the future.
Thank you for your continued faithfulness to the prevention of child abuse and for holding us accountable for the safety of our children in programs across the archdiocese. Child abuse is a sin of our society. Education will help us recognize the signs of abuse and neglect as we strive to prevent tragedy in the lives of children and youth.
We will continue our Safe Environment programs throughout the archdiocese in our parishes, schools, ministries and organizations. All children and youth will be trained annually using developmentally appropriate materials.
All clergy, paid staff and volunteers having contact with minors and those attending any over-night event with minors, will continue to receive Safe Environment training on mandated reporting laws, standards of behavior and appropriate boundaries prior to service. Adults will receive criminal background checks before service to minors. Safe Environment training and background checks must be repeated every three years.
As our young people arrive in our parishes and schools, let us always remember the Gospel of Mark, “Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me; and whoever receives me, receives not me but the One who sent me.” (Mark 9:37) When members of our young Church are with us, it is our challenge and responsibility to recognize the person of Christ in them, to lead them to Christ, and to help them to recognize their goodness.
If you have any questions regarding Safe Environment in the Archdiocese of New Orleans, I invite you to contact Sr. Mary Ellen Wheelahan, O. Carm.,srmwheelahan@arch-no.org or (504) 861-6278. Please take time to review the policies and many resources we have available to us on the Safe Environment page of the Archdiocesan website,https://www.nolacatholic.org/safe-environment.
I ask that we continue to pray together for the children and youth of the Archdiocese of New Orleans. It is important in our society today that we teach them to recognize Christ within themselves and others and to have the courage necessary to come forward if they need help.
No child should suffer abuse, especially not by a Church leader or staff member. Once again, please join me in prayer for those who have been abused that they will know God’s healing and peace.
Wishing you God’s blessings and with gratitude for your service to our young Church, I am
Sincerely in Christ,
Most Reverend Gregory M. Aymond
Archbishop of New Orleans
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