Philly Archdiocese Protection Policy Seriously Flawed


By Kathy Kane, Catholics4Change

The most recent bulletin insert distributed from the Archdiocese highlights the The Standard of Ministerial Behavior and Boundaries. The Standards apply to clergy, teachers, coaches, volunteers – all who interact with children. The most important sentence in that document is the following:

“Any Church personnel or volunteers who violate the Standards may be removed or suspended from their position depending upon the nature of the offense.”

If there is an incident or even suspicion of sexual abuse, contact the police. But many of the Standards describe behavior and conduct that although inappropriate, are not criminal.

Who has the authority to enforce these Standards and make sure they are upheld on a parish level? The Archdiocese?  The Office of Child and Youth Protection?  The Office of Catholic Education? None of these.

Each pastor is responsible for overseeing the safety of children enrolled in the parish school, religious education program and/or CYO as well as teens in Youth Ministry. If there’s a problem such as inadequate child/chaperone ratios or off-site event issues, the handling of the problem is at the pastor’s discretion.

If something is not handled properly on a parish level by the pastor, is there any recourse? No. There is not. If you bring your concern to the Archdiocese they will refer you back to your parish.

Of the recent suspensions of 26 diocesan priests, I think 11 of these men were pastors of parishes. I know that Father Ayres, suspended in November of 2010 was pastor and acting pastor of two parishes. They were pastors responsible for the safety of the children in their parishes and they are now being investigated for allegations ranging from boundary issues to child sex abuse.

In researching how other Dioceses address child safety, I’ve found many adopted additional customized charters of child protection. In the Philadelphia Archdiocese we have no such additional child protection charters.

In other Dioceses, there are specific child safety policies that pastors must follow. Some Dioceses have classified these child protection policies as “diocesan law”. Those who do not uphold the charters, face specific penalties. What is the current accountability for pastors who do not enforce the Standards in the Philadelphia Archdiocese? From my research and phone calls with the Archdiocese, it’s very unclear if any penalties exist.

Because we have no additional charters of protection for children in the Archdiocese, child safety can vary from parish to parish. An activity or event that could put children at risk could be forbidden by one pastor – mandated by another. The policies that do exist are not enforced on an Archdiocesan level. Many things are recommendations with absolutely no penalties if they are not followed on a parish level.

Does anyone think this is a good plan? How could this possibly work? The simple answer is obvious. It doesn’t work.

I advocated for policy concerning safety protocol for the thousands of children in Archdiocesan CYO programs. The issue I brought to the Archdiocese’s attention didn’t have any existing policy. However in other Dioceses, there was policy in place. I was repeatedly told by Archdiocesan employees how difficult it is to have policy all pastors would have to follow. Why? In other Dioceses it works.

I spent months emailing and placing phone calls. In the Archdiocese, nothing seems to move forward without a clergy member on board. I finally contacted Monsignor Joseph Marino, vicar of Chester County, in Sept. 2010 – before the recent scandals came to light. Along with being the pastor of his own parish, he was also acting pastor of two parishes and oversees the 18 parishes of Chester County. Monsignor Marino was compassionate, knowledgeable and proactive. His assistance moved the process forward. He got involved and did what was necessary for the safety of the children of the Archdiocese.

I contacted Bishop Fitzgerald’s office on several occasions since November 2010. I had questions and also offered to share my research. Although Bishop Fitzgerald approved the child safety policy (which I fought an uphill battle to have implemented), he still to this day has not replied. I verified he received my emails. I called his office two months ago to ask why I hadn’t heard back. His administrative assistant told me it would be a priority and he’d contact me. I’m still waiting.

I’ve been told Bishops are very busy. If I am to believe what Cardinal Rigali has stated, he and the Bishops are very busy ensuring the safety of the children of the Archdiocese. I‘m a parent, a professional and an advocate for children. I have identified the flaws in the system. Wouldn’t they want to meet with me to learn from a parent’s perspective how the system will continue to fail the children of the Archdiocese?

Kathy Kane received a Bachelor Degree in Social Work from Cabrini College and a Master’s Degree from the University of Pennsylvania School of Social Policy and Practice.

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32 Responses to “Philly Archdiocese Protection Policy Seriously Flawed”

  1. Perhaps the Archdiocese is limiting their liability by leaving child safety up to individual pastors? Keeping pastor decisions de-centralized is what kept the grade-school teachers from being able to unionize. Just a thought. Would any lawyers care to share their thoughts on this?

    • Interesting point Susan. having taught in 3 schools in the archdiocese I always thought it was interesting how 222 maintains a file on every teacher with our annual evaluations and in order to get on the approved teacher list one must first be screened at 222 but when it came to benefits they always turned around and said a teacher is hired by the individual parish, not the archdiocese. For us elementary teachers this enabled the archdiocese to avoid granting benefits under the Family Leave Act. A parish only has to offer Family Leave Act benefits if it has more than 50 full time employees and the majority of parishes do not. I taught at one of the largest schools in the archdiocese and we were just slightly under 50 full time employees. So if a teacher wants to take time off for maternity leave she can only use her accrued sick time. Elementary teachers in the archdiocese DO NOT get the standard 12 weeks UNPAID maternity leave that most employees are eligible for. If the archdiocese were honest about the fact that we must first be screened by 222 and in effect worked for the archdiocese, rather than the individual parish, they would have to follow the Family Leave Act. Remember I am talking about UNPAID leave only. If the teacher is getting her health coverage through the parish, she is forced to return to work after using up her remaining sick days. I know of one teacher who had to return to work less than 30 days after the birth of her child because her husband was self employed and her health coverage was through her teaching position. This has been going on for years and it sickens me. I am very pro-life and it has always infuriated me that the archdiocese treats its elementary teachers who have just given birth-or in my case-adopted a child with such callousness via this loophole of being hired by the individual parish. If they really cared and were truly pro-life they would follow the Family Leave Act even if there are less than 50 full-time employees in the parish. What made me more crazy was the fact that in our faculty room was the large poster discussing the Family Leave Act but our parish didn’t have to abide by it. So I am not surprised by the slight of hand tricks the archdiocese continues to display re. the abuse scandal. I am disgusted but sadly, not surprised. Thanks for all you have been doing to get the word out. My sister-in-law and I attended a rally outside 222 in March. The past few weeks we have dealt with 3 deaths of family/friends but I hope to get back down there soon.

      • Theresa.. I am sorry for your loss in these past weeks. My prayers for your and your family.
        I had no idea about the Family Leave situation in the Archdiocese. I’ve been out of diocesan employment for a very long time, but I do remember my days working with the Diocese of Galveston-Houston… benefits were next to nothing.
        Thank you for writing about it. It does seem to show a pattern of mixed messages.

      • Theresa, I remember meeting you and your sister-in-law. I’m so sorry to hear about your losses. You and your family are in my prayers. Thank you also for your years of service as a Catholic school teacher. You are one of the reasons I’m proud to be a Catholic. Shouldn’t Church leaders value its teachers and motherhood more? This also further bolsters my thought that pastor responsibility is a legal maneuver.

    • Interesting perspective Susan. I know that from meeting with people from various parishes recently,child safety varies widely parish by parish. In researching other Dioceses in the U.S I have yet to find another Diocese that includes the following legal disclaimer that precedes the Philadelphia Archdiocese Standards:

      “The Standards are not intended to create any rights in any person, to obligate the Archdiocese to act at any time or in any manner, or to establish any responsibility or liability of the Archdiocese.”

      In the intro paragraphs to the Standards in many other Dioceses,many speak at great length of their commitment to the children,some have named various Saints as sort of “patron saints” of their Standards and Charters In Philadelphia we are greeted with a legal disclaimer. Very interesting when you start researching other U.S. Dioceses.

    • Susan: Clearly you understand how they (archdiocese etc..)think and manipulate. First, yes, they push the liability off to the pastor to take the weight off themselves. Second, this arrangement forces the pastors to seek the advice and support of the archdiocese, making the pastors dependent on them more so and the archdiocese in control but not liable. Very sad.

  2. Kathy – Your experience, unfortunately, mirrors mine as a volunteer for the Diocese of Grand Rapids, MI. In that capacity, I administered its Protecting God’s Children program from VIRTUS and drafted its Standards for Ministerial Behavior. Once the PGC program was up & running, I started the necessary steps to insure that those who were required to do its continuing education (which VIRTUS informed me was its most important component) were, in fact, doing it. I ran into a brick wall w/ only one group, the priests. No sticks, no carrots, nothing.
    The diocese’s leadership just ignored the fact that well over 50% of the priests were not doing what the diocese advertized as “manditory”.

    I then went to the OYCP, as it was then known, at the USCCP. That’s not our problem was the response, the Dallas Charter does not require us to audit whether they are doing what they said they would do, only that they have a plan to do it! I went to the chair of the National Review Board at the time, “oh yes, we will address that at our next meeting”. But he
    didn’t do anything other than write a glowing report for the NY Times when he left office about what a great job the bishops were doing to stop criminal abuse of kids. When I called him on it he was, in my judgment, completely unable to explain himself.

    So, it keeps going on – promises, but doing the bare minimum, and that only in some circumstances, as the 2d grand jury report in Philadelphia makes clear. So, we have to stay vigilant, & engage with our sisters & brothers in the pews who do not understand that doing nothing is not an option for anyone who loves kids.

  3. Kathy,
    Keep up those info-seeking phone calls!
    I’m responding to this piece of your post:

    Because we have no additional charters of protection for children in the Archdiocese, child safety can vary from parish to parish…..ABSOLUTELY.
    An activity or event that could put children at risk could be forbidden by one pastor-mandated by another..ABSOLUTELY. CODES OF CONDUCT SHOULD BE PUBLISHED IN THE PARISH AND ENFORCED.
    The policies that do exist are not enforced on an Archdiocesan level… WE HAVE A REORGANIZED DIOCESE. IT IS DIFFICULT TO PIN DOWN CONSISTENT ENFORCEMENT PROCEDURE FOR RECOMMENDATIONS.
    THERE IS CANON LAW EXPLAINING THE JOB OF A “VICAR FORANE” WHO OVERSEES COMPORTMENT OF PRIESTS IN A VICARIATE. IN THEORY HE REPORTS TO HIS REGIONAL BISHOP.
    IN FACT,IMHO, A PASTOR CONTROLS REACTION
    TO AN ALLEGATION, DECIDING TO NOTIFY CHILDRENS’ PROTECTIVE SERVICES OR POLICE.
    A VICAR FORANE IS A PASTOR AND THEY DON’T INTERFERE WITH EACH OTHER BY TRADITION.

  4. The Faithful can easily deal with this obfuscation, because that’s what it is, by going directly to the local police if there is any untoward action on the part of a priest, teacher, or volunteer in a Catholic parish. Next, families need to get an advocate or a lawyer. Let us be for real, the pastor, or anyone connected with the hierarchy, is not without a personal stake in keeping things secret. Those in the pews need to understand that our Church is–up to this point–run by humiliated, frightened, brain-washed people.

  5. If you truly want to ‘CHANGE’ the ‘rcc’, then speak to the ‘LEGISLATORS’ in HARRISBURG. All these meetings with parish priests and entreaties to the hierarchy only provides information they will use against you in the future, stop playing their game and DEMAND THAT HARRISBURG CHANGE THE LAWS AND ONLY THEN WILL THE ‘rcc’ STOP STONEWALLING !

    • I agree the priority and focus should be changing the laws…….while some of these other measures are good……..we need to focus on how to get the most predators out of our schools and parishes the fastest while creating awareness that our kids are NOT completely safe and implementing measures to protect them that are ACTUALLY followed. I do see a need to improve the standards language and to make things more clear. I also think someone with special training should be in charge at each school and parish to see that the standards are followed and necessary paperwork is done…….I think this should be a parent and a lay person they would take it more seriously…….I think they should do random checks like fightdrills…….to check that the guidelines are being followed……..

      • I know that some parishes in the Archdiocese have Safety Environment committees. How much influence do these committees have on a parish level? I would love to hear from anyone whose parish has a committee.

      • I don’t think we have one I have to check ……..besides coming up with ideas which most committees do… I really would like them to make sure there is follow thru I see where some parishes have been lax and nobody is really checking til the Archdiose occassionally audits.

  6. Bishop Michael Fitzgerald, who oversees the Office of Child and Youth Protection, is also the Founder, Office for Legal Services, Archdiocese of Philadelphia (now Office of General Counsel) 1991 – 2004

    ARCHDIOCESAN ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICES

    222 North 17th Street
    Philadelphia, PA 19103-1299
    215-587-3600

    The Most Reverend Michael J. Fitzgerald

    Titular Bishop of Tamallula and
    Auxiliary to the Archbishop of Philadelphia

    Ordained on May 17, 1980
    Consecrated as Bishop on August 6, 2010

    Coat of Arms
    Office of the Auxiliary Bishop
    222 North 17th Street
    Philadelphia, PA 19103

    BPFITZGERALD@adphila.org

    Bishop Fitzgerald is responsible for the Office of Child and Youth Protection

    Call him, fax him, e-mail him, write to him, etc. with any concerns, issues, conflicts, misunderstandings regarding the policies of the archdiocese to protect our children.

  7. It has become apparent that Catholic priests, monsignors, pastors, bishops, cardinal (and the former cardinal – who is conveniently mentally incompetent) have no intention of responding to our outrage either by mail, phone and email. We are left to do the task of protecting our children and our faith ourselves. We do not need a clerical imprimatur to enact our own rules and policies/procedures. There are plenty of us who have the ability and experience to be able to write these up and have them approved by our parish councils.

  8. Beth (great last name by the way)It seems obvious that child safety would be one role in the Church where the laity would have some power.They are OUR children after all.In some Dioceses the Charters for Child Protection have received direct input from the laity in shaping policy concerning children.

  9. Kathy,
    I want to understand what is going on in this Archdiocese and you seem to have had much experience in dealing with safe environment policy. Would you elaborate on your experience?

    In your blog post, you make the following statement:
    “If something is not handled properly on a parish level by the pastor, is there any recourse? No. There is not. If you bring your concern to the Archdiocese they will refer you back to your parish.”

    I have two questions.
    First, when you contacted the Archdiocese, did you contact the Philadelphia Safe Environment Coordinator, Evelyn Tarpey (etarpey@adphila.org 215-965-17470? Did she refer you back to your parish?

    Second question: Did you bring your concerns about the child safety policy to the National Office of Child and Youth Protection, where Theresa Kettelkamp is the executive director, and Mary Jane Doerr is the assistant director? If so, to whom did you speak and what was her response?

    Thanks for your continued efforts on behalf of our children.

    Michele

  10. Michele
    Yes I did speak with Evelyn and was refferred back to my parish.Why even have an Office of Child and Youth Protection if they have no jurisdiction /influence over the parishes.It is not the fault of Archdiocesan employees,it is the system that is in place.
    I also contacted the National Office of Child and Youth Protection to find that they have no jurisdiction over individual Dioceses.They were very helpful though,I know they placed a call to the Phil AD Office of Child and Youth Protection.Is placing a call really helpful?It is better than doing nothing and I did find them to be concerned about the Safety Environment program being breached. I found Mary Jane to be very helpful and interested in doing the best for child safety however again they have no jurisdiction.I have been around the social work world long enough to know when I am speaking to someone who is just telling me what I want to hear or is actually trying to be helpful.Mary Jane was definitely helpful,she was a good resource.

    • Michele & Kathy –

      My experience is similar. Mary Jane Doerr, who was in the Kalamazoo, MI diocese when I was administering the PGC program for the diocese of GR, MI (see above) is a caring person who does her best, under the circumstances she is faced with, for kids. But her hands, as, I assume, are those of Ms. Kettlekamp, who is the one who told me the Gavin “audits” would remain limited, at the bishops’ direction, to whether a diocese had a plan, & never progress to whether the diocese was actually following its plan, are tied: they can only do what the bishops authorize them to do. But, a plan without implementation accountability is just a piece of paper, & the refusal to require periodic audits to check on that shows the lack of integrity which has characterized the bishops’ lack of leadership to protect kids ever since Fr. Tom Doyle & his cohorts brought the issue to their attention in the mid-1980s.

      • I am happy to hear my feelings about Mary Jane are correct. She was refreshingly honest and open,and it is obvious that she cares about children very much.

  11. Check this out. A Presbyterian church finds one youth ministries director with a sexual abuse claim, and they tell the insurance company and the lawyers that they are going to tell the truth instead of listening to their advice.

    What?

    Have they lost their minds?

    For their benefit, I am posting the Catholic playbook:

    – deny, deny, deny
    – then lie, lie, lie
    – then hire the best lawyers
    – denigrate the victims, thereby discouraging other victims
    – ignore the victims
    – lie to the congregation
    – lather, rinse, repeat

    Those crazy Presbyterians, who will undoubtedly end up in hell, since they aren’t the self-proclaimed “one, holy and apostolic church”, are sure looking good on this earth. Almost Christian.

    See http://huff.to/knG8Og

    Shame this wasn’t a free country where you could just walk across the street and go to a church that practiced some form of Christianity. Maybe the Catholic church should try to trade for Pastor Peter James or try to recruit him as a free agent during the off season.

  12. Kathy Kane (from your initial post in this topic):

    “I contacted Bishop Fitzgerald’s office on several occasions since November 2010. I had questions and also offered to share my research. Although Bishop Fitzgerald approved the child safety policy (which I fought an uphill battle to have implemented), he still to this day has not replied. I verified he received my emails. I called his office two months ago to ask why I hadn’t heard back. His administrative assistant told me it would be a priority and he’d contact me. I’m still waiting.”

    As I mentioned earlier, the time has come (long overdue) to hold INDIVIDUALS accountable for their conduct, actions and decision-making. If Bishop Fitzgerald is responsible for the Protection of Children and Youth, then the buck stops with him. He apparently is avoiding you in the same manner he avoided me years before regarding the same issue.

    However, unlike my inquiry in early 2006, it is NOW his job and responsibility and he will be held accountable for his work to protect our children. Such demands may be foreign to him and may even make him uncomfortable, but, not to worry, he’ll get used to the fact that these are OUR children and not his.

    Since a change in vigil location is clearly warranted, I would suggest taking the vigil, protest, information, advocacy and awareness to the parish wherein Bishop Fitzgerald resides in order to speak out on behalf of our children. Maybe, prior to or at the end of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, he will have the time to speak with you, I or any of the other arhcdiocesan members who have critical concerns and questions for him regarding his JOB and OUR CHILDREN.

    I’m not sure, but Msgr. Fitzgerald had been residing at St. Patrick’s at Rittenhouse Square……what a perfect location for a show of support and solidarity for our children. Certainly, we would have a captive audience in Rittenhouse Square where families, parents and children come together in a beautiful setting.

  13. In his remarks at the news conference in Philadelphia, Bishop-elect Fitzgerald said, “In accepting this nomination I am conscious of the great responsibility that has been entrusted to me but I am even more aware of the providence of Almighty God in calling me to the priesthood and sustaining me happily in the priesthood these past thirty years. It is in that providence that I continue to place my trust as I answer a new call of the church to serve the people of God as a bishop.”

    To repeat what Bishop Fitzgerald stated (in part) prior to his elevation as an Auxiliary Bishop:

    “…TO SERVE THE PEOPLE OF GOD….”

  14. Michael
    My hunch is that the questions I asked did not have easy answers,therefor no response.I have stumped more than a few people at the Archdiocese with my questions about the flaws in the child safety policies. Easy questions get answered,difficult ones get ignored.

  15. Patrick O’Malley:

    “Check this out. A Presbyterian church finds one youth ministries director with a sexual abuse claim, and they tell the insurance company and the lawyers that they are going to tell the truth instead of listening to their advice.”

    Following the teachings of Our Lord? Doing what is right, fair and proper?
    Informing the laity?
    Standing up for children?
    Admitting mistakes?

    Mr. O’Malley, are you making this up? This wouldn’t happen here in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. Our leadership follows what I like to call the “2-H” principle. That is, HUBRIS and HYPOCRISY.

    Since it hasn’t worked since the release of the first grand jury report in 2005, our leaders have decided to stick with this un-Christian protocal.

  16. This is the link to the Presbyterian church story where the leaders, in spite of the advice provided by their legal counsel and insurance carrier, decided to be honest, forthright and open with their faithful in response to sexual abuse incidents perpetrated by one of their leaders.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/05/15/abuse-pits-church-honesty_n_861842.html

    What I would like to know is how does a law firm decide what is in the best interests of their client? For example, in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, the primary legal counsel is Stradley and Ronon, William Sasso, Chairman.

    When it comes to the provision of legal advice, does legal counsel decide in the best interests of their client (the Archdiocese) or in the best interests of the law firm (Stradley and Ronon)?

    Since the legal counsel, advice and perspective provided to date to the archdiocese appears ineffective, counterproductive and damaging both internally and externally to the Catholic Church here in Philadelphia and the legal fees continue to pile up in favor of Stradley and Ronon, I believe there is legitimate reason and concern to investigate who really benefits from the legal advice being provided by William Sasso and his partners at Stradley and Ronon?

    I always return to this puzzle:

    “Is defending the client’s actions and conduct always the same as acting in the client’s best interests?”

    Based on the implosion evidenced over the past several years at 222 N. 17th St., the archdiocesan faithful here in Philadelphia would want to know the answer to this question.

  17. It is incredible to me that Monsignors are given this much individual power. The fact that they have a “pick and choose menu” as Standards is even more unbelievable. What a worthless document that is. So, in essence, each parish is its own little dictatorship…not very comforting, especially if your “dictator” is incompetent, or worse, criminal. The problem is that there are SO MANY PEOPLE who are uninformed….who have NO idea about any of this. How to get their heads out of the sand is a dilemmna to me.

  18. Jackie
    They do not have to reach the level of Monsignor to be able to decide child safety issues,they just need to be a pastor of a parish The priest I mentioned above who was suspended was only 39 years old and was pastor of a parish and Parochial Administraor of another.With the lack of vocations, priests are assigned as pastors at without many years of experience.
    Are all the pastors supposed to be upholding the Standards on a parish level?Of course they are supposed to be.Do they? Well there seems to be know way of knowing if they do and no accountability if they don’t.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. How You Can Protect Children and Renew the Church | Catholics4Change - May 20, 2011

    […] We understand that the Philadelphia Archdiocese has a “Safe Environment Program” in place. But the lapses we observed in the hiring and supervising of Bernard Shero indicate that better practices are necessary to protect children in parish schools.” (Please See Kathy Kane’s post.) […]

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