Catholic Bishop Of San Diego Lays Out New Plan To Deal With Sexual Abuse Of Children
It’s a first for the Roman Catholic Diocese of San Diego.
Bishop Robert McElroy on Tuesday called together the 2,500 priests, teachers and staff of the diocese to talk about the sexual abuse of children. The bishop laid out a plan to eradicate such abuse both in and outside the church.
The bishop’s action follows a directive Pope Francis issued in May, calling on bishops worldwide to not only change procedures, but to undertake personal and institutional transformation to eliminate the abuse of children. McElroy's plan consists of four elements:
– Now, everyone employed by the diocese is required to report suspected abuse, Now, everyone employed by the diocese is required to report suspected abuse, not just so-called mandated reporters who are required by law to report it.
– McElroy called on everyone to report suspected abuse wherever it happens, not just in the church or church institutions.
– He announced the creation of a task force to develop programming to raise awareness at diocesan schools and parishes…
– There are now two new communication restrictions in place that forbid employees, including clergy, from communicating privately with minors without copying their parents or guardians. This goes for in-person communication or contact on social media.
This is the first time since the Catholic Diocese of San Diego was formed in 1936 that all employees, clergy and laity, were gathered together for any purpose.
There were spiritual songs, a reading from scripture and prayers before McElroy gave a speech detailing his plan.
When asked why such a diocesan-wide meeting hadn’t been called until now, McElroy said that previous work with diocesan employees had been done on a parish level.
"All of the people who are in this room did receive training, did become involved in programs, fingerprinting, background checks on them and also helping them to bring to people in catechism classes, to children and parents. We began educational programs then in 2002 about how children can understand signs of sexual abuse," the Bishop said.
McElroy pointed out that there have been no credible allegations of clergy abusing children in the San Diego diocese for 20 years.
But the diocese has a troubled past on this issue.
In September of 2007, after declaring bankruptcy, the diocese agreed to pay nearly $200 million to settle numerous complaints over clergy abuse.