The Archdiocese of Agana is implementing a revised policy intended to protect our island’s youth from sexual predators in hopes of rebuilding faith in the Catholic Church.
Guam – Over the last several years the Archdiocese of Guam has found itself in the midst of sexual abuse scandals, to date over 100 cases of sexual abuse has been filed against the church. But even more alarming in each case it is alleged that the Archdiocese was aware and conspired to cover-up the widespread sexual violence.
In September, both the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests and the Center for Constitutional Rights, in a report to the UN argued “that the Holy See has not made substantial progress in genuinely acknowledging, internalizing and implements the full range of policies and practices that would center children’s best interest and protect them against sexual violence.”
Today, it appears that at least for the Archdiocese of Guam, they are attempting to make a change, through the implementation of policies addressing the problems of sexual abuse by clergy, employees and volunteers.
First, is the implementation is the Safe Environment Program which has adopted the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People. Archbishop Michael Byrnes states that the mission is to protect children in all environments so that parents will be confident in their children’s participation in their parishes, school, and in interactions with others in the Catholic Church. Under this policy, it outlines that meetings between clergy can not take place in private living quarters nor are they to be held at places or times which can cause confusion about the nature of the relationship. Further stating that at least two adults should be present in the general vicinity during any meeting with children or young people.
“We have also developed a policy for members of our independent review board so this would be focused on three main points first the assessment of any allegations of sexual abuse of minors among our clergy,” shared Archbishop Byrnes.
That Board is made up of a number of people who helped develop the policy such as Doctor Juan Rapadas, Joseph Diaz, and Sister Trini Pangelinan among others.
“God forbid one of our clergy were to be accused of sexual abuse to minors there would be an investigation automatically prompted and the results of that investigation would not go directly to me but to the independent review board,” shared Archbishop.
That board would then advise Archbishop Byrnes on the credibility of the allegation. The third aspect according to the Archbishop is the policy itself, fully Implementing the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People and the Essential Norms for Diocesan/Eparchial Policies with Allegations of Sexual Abuse of Minors by priest and deacons.
Archbishop Byrnes further stated, “within the policy you will find a code of conduct that we will expect every clergy school teachers youth ministers, catachists to follow when it comes to maintaining a safe environment when it comes to children.”
The policy also requires background checks and on-going training related to the protection of minors, signs of sexual abuse and the role of a mandatory reporter.
According to the policy, “the Bishops have committed themselves to take responsibility for dealing with this problem strongly, consistently and effectively in the future. The loss of trust becomes even more tragic when its consequence is a loss of the faith the Church has a sacred duty to foster.”