Nov. 19, 2018
Since the establishment of the Dallas Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) in 2002 (revised in 2005, 2011 and 2018) and its accompanying Essential Norms, dioceses across the country — including the Diocese of Trenton — have committed themselves to the eradication of the sexual abuse of minors in the Church and its institutions and agencies. In addition, the dioceses of New Jersey entered into an agreement with the Office of the Attorney General of New Jersey and the prosecutors of every county — known as the Memorandum of Understanding — to report every single instance of the alleged sexual abuse of minors in the Church to their offices. Following the review and response of prosecutors, Diocesan Review Boards, composed predominantly of lay professionals, make determinations of credibility to present to the bishop who, in turn, takes immediate, appropriate actions in accord with the Charter and Essential Norms and Canon Law.
Related: New Jersey dioceses to establish victim compensation and counseling program
Extensive measures for the prevention of the sexual abuse of minors in the Church have been in place here in the Diocese of Trenton for many years, including, but not limited to, criminal background checks, Virtus training, and supervision of everyone who comes into contact with minors. The Diocese’s policies, practices and adherence to these preventative measures are audited regularly by both the Diocese and USCCB. Every clergyman must present a “testimonial letter of suitability” from his bishop or religious superior to the Chancery and to the parish, institution or agency before being permitted to participate in any ministerial activity, liturgical, sacramental or otherwise.
In the Diocese of Trenton, an Office of Child and Youth Protection exists in the Chancery with a “24/7” hotline for reporting of allegations of the sexual abuse of minors in the Church that is checked several times a day. A Victims Assistance Coordinator documents every allegation reported and follows up with the alleged victim. All allegations are reported to the county prosecutor. Every alleged victim is invited to present his/her allegation in person to the Diocesan Review Board. No alleged victim deemed credible has ever been refused help by the Diocese of Trenton.
In the past 10 years, over $9 million has been distributed by the Diocese of Trenton to the victims of the sexual abuse of minors in the Church whose allegations have been determined to be credible. No victim has been required by the Diocese of Trenton to enter a confidentiality agreement as a condition of compensation. Where such agreements have existed, they were requested by victims and/or his/her attorney to protect their identities.
Many victims’ advocates groups have recommended that dioceses release the names of clergy credibly accused of the sexual abuse of minors. They believe that the publication of such lists will encourage other victims to come forward and seek healing. The Diocese of Trenton has been considering this action for some time and will join the other dioceses of New Jersey in publishing, early in the new year, a list of clergy credibly accused of the sexual abuse of minors. It is hoped that this action will bring healing and closure to those who have suffered from sexual abuse as minors in the Church and will prompt others so affected to come forward to seek healing.
The Diocese of Trenton will also join the other dioceses of New Jersey in creating its own Victims Compensation Program to assist victims who were sexually abused as minors by a representative of the Church in the Diocese of Trenton. Details surrounding this program, its availability and conditions for access to it are being developed and will be announced as soon as they are available.
We continue to be vigilant in our administration of the preventative measures we have had in place, and I am convinced that these efforts offer the best possible protection available for keeping children and young people safe in our churches, schools and all programs we administer.
With the heaviest of hearts and deep shame, I apologize once more to all victims of the sexual abuse of minors by clergy and other personnel in the Diocese of Trenton. I hope that our latest efforts at transparency and outreach related to such abuse will serve as both a recognition of your deep suffering and an opportunity to begin healing in your lives.
May God bring you peace and may Mary, Mother of the Lord, lead you to the loving embrace of Her Son.