Because We Care, the Church of Ogdensburg continues to examine how best to provide a safe and respectful environment where our children and youth may deepen their relationship with Christ and our family of faith. We monitor closely our diocesan safe environment programs and related diocesan policies to ensure that our loved ones are protected from all those who would harm them. In this week’s issue of the North Country Catholic, you will find information reflecting our continuing efforts to ensure that our children are protected from all those who would harm them.
Under the direction and guidance of Sister Ellen Donahue, S.A., the Church of Ogdensburg has diligently sought to ensure that the national and diocesan policies established to provide safe environments for our children are implemented in our diocese. These standards are found in the document promulgated by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in 2002, the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, and in the diocesan Policy Dealing with Allegations of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Priests, Deacons, or Other Church Personnel, also promulgated in 2002.
There are many elements to a sound safe environment program. Among these are criminal background checks that are conducted of all employees and all those having regular contact with children as well as the safe environment training programs we mandate through the VIRTUS Protecting God’s Children Program. Our pastors maintain records in the local parish for compliance audit purposes. We are keeping our promise to protect.
Whenever an allegation of sex abuse against a cleric is received by the Diocese of Ogdensburg, the local District Attorney’s office is immediately notified. Once the information of the alleged abuse is gathered, the Diocesan Review Board meets to consider the facts and determine the credibility of the allegation. This diocesan process occurs whether or not a civil or criminal investigation is undertaken by the civil authorities. The commitment remains: any cleric who has committed such a heinous act will be removed permanently from public ministry.
The Diocese of Ogdensburg offers immediate pastoral care to those who have suffered abuse by clergy or other Church personnel. Allegations of sexual abuse should be made directly to our Victims’ Assistance Coordinator, Ms. Terrianne Yanulavich at 518-569-0612. Victims are also encouraged to notify the local authorities when abuse occurs.
We can never minimize the life-long trauma that is suffered by those who have been abused, particularly when a leader of the Church is the abuser. As we continue to seek forgiveness and express our deep sorrow for the abuse and the manner in which the Church handled it, I urge those who have suffered sexual abuse by the clergy to contact our Victims’ Assistance Coordinator so that healing may begin and justice served.
I want to thank Sister Ellen for her fine work as our Diocesan Safe Environment Coordinator and Mrs. Elaine Seymour who serves as our diocesan Charter Compliance Coordinator. Your support and continuing cooperation help us all keep the promise to protect and the pledge to heal. Please spend some time reviewing the information presented in these pages. You will see that as Jesus, the Good Shepherd, showed constant care for the vulnerable, your local Church is seeking to do likewise.