My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
I write to you today to bring attention to a new movie titled “Spotlight” that will be released nationwide on Nov. 20.
The movie, according to its website, features the 2002 story of the Boston Globe journalists who investigated the clerical sexual abuse issue within the Archdiocese of Boston. The film features several notable actors and actresses and has received critical acclaim.
Due to the sensitive subject matter, you should be informed and prepared for the possible public attention to the movie. This also offers an opportunity to raise awareness on what has been and continues to be done within the Catholic Church to ensure the safety of children.
I have spoken with victims and their families over the years who have suffered from sexual abuse. I share Pope Francis’ sentiments that any situation of abuse “may no longer be kept secret” and that we must ensure “that those responsible will be held to account.”
We cannot undo, or worse, deny the transgressions committed by those who have violated our trust. Now we must learn from our mistakes, help those who have been violated and do everything we can to make sure our children are always protected.
As you know, the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People was created, along with a nationwide network of victim assistance and safe environment training in order to implement the Charter in dioceses across the nation.
The Charter describes and mandates that every Catholic diocese in the United States:
- Provides pastoral care and professional assistance for victims
- Implements policies and procedures that will ensure how allegations of child sexual abuse will be handled, including prohibition of confidentiality agreements, the requirement to report allegations to public authorities, and the establishment of Review Boards who will review and approve diocesan safe environment policy and advise the bishop on all matters pertaining to child protection
- Implements a Code of Conduct that sets clear standards of behavior expected of all who work in diocesan parishes, schools, and other Catholic institutions, and underscore diocesan policies of zero tolerance of sexual abuse
- Mandates open and transparent communications about allegations of abuse
- Requires safe environment training for all adults and employees, as well as abuse awareness and prevention training for children in the diocese
- Conducts background checks of all personnel working or volunteering in a Catholic institution whose service brings them into contact with children.
The Diocese of Sioux City has faithfully complied with the standards of the Charter since it was implemented in 2003. This fact is confirmed each year with a clean audit, conducted by independent, national auditors. We have conducted background screenings, required signed compliance with our Code of Conduct and given child abuse awareness training to more than 18,500 adults, including all of our priests, deacons, and seminarians.
This year we are in the process of implementing a new and comprehensive training curriculum for children in our Catholic schools and parishes. Our Diocesan Review Board continues to meet several times each year, and is primarily made up of non-church employees who specialize in law enforcement, psychology and counseling, law, and medicine. They provide expert guidance to me on all matters concerning the protection of children and they lead the internal investigation process when reports of abuse are received.
Moving forward, we must remain vigilant against those who would harm our children. I strongly encourage parents and grandparents to attend our “Protecting God’s Children” class and become educated about this important societal issue and how to recognize and prevent potential abusers.
We must also continue to pray for the victims of sexual abuse, that they will find strength, comfort and healing. I greatly appreciate your attention to this important subject.
Please click on the following link to view a short video produced by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, “The Catholic Church is Committed to the Safety of Children” – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b6cW4YUsTlA.
It provides information that may be helpful for you to share with your parishioners prior to the release of the movie on Nov. 20.
Your brother in Christ,
Most Reverend R. Walker Nickless
Bishop of Sioux City