ROMAN CATHOLIC DIOCESE OF FRESNO

 

WHEN AN ALLEGATION OF SEXUAL MISCONDUCT IS BROUGHT TO THE ATTENTION OF THE BISHOP

 

1)  If the Allegation Creates a Reasonable Suspicion

 

Any allegation of sexual misconduct, which creates reasonable suspicion of its veracity, will be investigated immediately in harmony with canon law. If the preliminary investigation leads to a belief that there may be probable cause for an allegation against a member of the clergy, the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith shall be notified.  The Bishop may place the accused on immediate administrative leave while the investigation continues, if the Bishop deems this is necessary for the good of the faithful. In every instance, the Diocese will advise victims of their right to make a report to public authorities and will support this right. Any credible allegations of sexual misconduct with a minor will result in immediate administrative leave. Any allegation of sexual misconduct with a minor will be reported to Children’s  Protective Service or law enforcement agency. This does not imply guilt, but is necessary for the good of God’s people. All appropriate steps shall be taken to protect the reputation of the cleric during the investigation. The Diocese will also be aware of the needs of the accused cleric in order to see that he receives the personal support he needs during a very difficult time. The Diocese will urge the cleric to contact a criminal attorney and canonical counsel. The cost of legal assistance will be borne by the cleric. The cleric may be asked to have a medical and psychological evaluation, which again does not imply guilt, so long as this does not interfere with the investigation by civil authorities, but is for the good of the cleric as well as for the good of God’s people, even if he may be accused unjustly.

 

2)  Pastoral Outreach to the Alleged Victim and Family and Community

 

The Diocese will immediately contact any known alleged victim or appropriate family members in the case of minors, and offer pastoral assistance and appropriate counseling. This outreach will include provision of counseling, spiritual assistance, support groups, and other social services agreed upon by the victim and the Diocese. The Diocese will not enter into confidentiality agreements except for grave and substantial reasons brought forward by the victim/survivor and noted in the text of the agreement. The Diocese will establish “safe environment” programs in cooperation with parents, civil authorities, educators, and community organizations to provide education and training for children, youth, parents, ministers, educators, and others about ways to make and maintain a safe environment for children.

 

3) If Guilt is Determined Regarding Current or Recent Sexual Abuse of a Minor

 

Where sexual abuse by a cleric is admitted or is established after an appropriate investigation in accord with canon law, the following will pertain:

a.       Diocesan policy provides that for even a single act of sexual abuse of a minor – past or present – the offending cleric will be permanently removed from ministry not excluding dismissal from the clerical state, if the case so warrants. An offending cleric will be offered professional assistance for his own healing and well-being, as well as for the purpose of prevention.

b.       In every case involving canonical penalties, the processes provided for in canon law must be observed, and the various provisions of canon law must be considered. (Details available upon request)

 

4) If an Allegation is Made Against a Cleric Belonging to a Religious Community

 

When an allegation is made against a cleric belonging to a religious community, the Bishop or Vicar General will notify the religious community of the allegation immediately. The religious community will be asked to handle the complaint according to its policy and procedures. However, the Diocese of Fresno does not delegate its responsibility to report allegations brought to its attention, and will work with the religious community to assure the safety of God’s people. If the allegation involves a minor, this allegation will be reported to Children’s Protective Service or law enforcement agency and if the accusation is credible, he will be removed from ministry in the Diocese.

 

5) If the Allegation is Unsupported but it is Determined Preventative Measures could have Avoided the Accusation

 

If the complaint is judged to be unsupported but it is determined that reasonable precautions could have been taken to avoid any appearance of inappropriate behavior and prevent an allegation of misconduct, the Bishop may provide instruction and counseling for the cleric. The Diocese reserves the right to take all prudent measures to follow up on the matter and to monitor the behavior of the person in question, so that there is no cause for further complaints.

 

6) When an Allegation has Proved to be Unfounded

 

If the allegation has proved to be unfounded, every step possible will be taken to restore the good name of the cleric.

 

A Copy of the Diocese of Fresno Code of Conduct may be obtained from your local parish or by contacting the Diocese of Fresno Safe Environment Office at 559 584-4349.