2.1.5.1 Duty to Report Allegations of Misconduct, Abuse, Neglect, etc.

1. The following common norms of reporting bind all persons who perform some ministry or function of the Church in the Diocese of Lansing (see #2.1.1).

   a. They have a grave duty in justice and in law to report allegations of violations against the human dignity of others or the common good when they are revealed in the external forum and appear to be reasonably founded. Allegations are to be taken seriously. This duty is pressing when a vulnerable person is involved, such as a minor, a person with disabilities, a victim of violence or an elderly person.   

   b. Without prejudice to the sacramental seal of confession of the Catholic Church, any actual or suspected physical, sexual, financial, criminal or ethical misconduct must be reported promptly to the appropriate Church officials, and any civil law that requires the reporting of misconduct must be observed. [1]

      The seal is to remain absolutely and always inviolate as canons 983 and 984 provide. (See #5.4.1 Penance in General and the resources on Civil Reporting and Privileged Communication that accompany this policy.)

   c.    Church personnel, including authorized volunteers, must know when Michigan law identifies them as "mandated reporters" who must report a reasonable suspicion of the abuse or neglect of a child, or of the abuse, neglect (even self-neglect) or exploitation of a vulnerable adult, to civil authorities. (Civil reporting laws apply whether a sexual aspect is involved or not, and whether the accused represents the

Church or not. See details regarding mandated reporters at www.michigan.gov/dhs.)

   d.    Church personnel who are mandated reporters must obey the times that civil law sets for mandatory reports, but are to alert their superior Church authority (the head) as closely as possible to the time they are made, even by way of anticipation (the civil reports remain required).

   e.    For purposes of these norms, the diocese would understand the "head of the organization" to mean the superior Church authority in the parish, school, juridic person, agency or diocesan department (illustratively, the pastor, principal, administrator, agency director or department chairperson). The diocesan legal counsel can advise in particular situations.

   f.    These norms term those adults who habitually lack the use of reason or who cannot protect themselves from abuse, neglect, or exploitation because of a mental or physical impairment or because of advanced age, as "vulnerable adults." [2]

   g.    When these norms use the term "in all cases," they require action regardless of the civil statute of limitations, canonical prescription, the present age of the victim, the period from which the accusation arises, and even the death of the accused. 

PROPER REPORTING OF ALLEGATIONS

2.    Church personnel are expected to know how to report the allegations of misconduct addressed in these norms properly.

   (The Victim Assistance Coordinator [VAC] is Cheryl Williams-Hecksel. The toll free phone number is 1888-308-6252. The email is cwilliamshecksel@dioceseoflansing.org.)

  (The address is  228 North Walnut, Lansing, MI, 48933-1122, but with envelopes marked

"confidential." The fax is 1-517-342-2505. [3])

   (The Michigan Department of Human Services receives verbal reports at 1-855-444-3911, and provides other details about child and adult protective services at www.michigan.gov/dhs.)

   (The chancellor and the diocesan legal counsel are contacted at the curial offices of the diocese. The phone number is 1-517-342-2440.)

ACCUSATION OF SEXUAL ABUSE OR SEXUAL EXPLOITATION OF A MINOR REFERRED TO

CHURCH PERSONNEL

3.    When Church personnel receive an accusation reported by a victim, someone acting for a victim or another knowledgeable person, that a minor has been, or is being sexually abused or sexually exploited, regardless of whether the accused represented or represents the Church, they must act as following:

   a.    if the reporter identifies herself or himself as the victim, or as the parent (legal guardian) of a victim who is still a minor, they must advise this reporter of the right to make a report to public authorities and support this right; [4]

   b.    if mandated by civil law, they must phone an immediate verbal report (1-855-444-3911) and then send a written report within 72 hours to the Michigan Department of Human Services (DHS), as well as notify the head of their organization (their superior Church authority);

   c.    if not mandated by civil law, they are strongly urged to make this report as well as notify the head of their organization as above;

   d.    IN ALL CASES of alleged abuse or sexual exploitation by a priest or deacon, they must provide the reporter (the victim, someone acting for the victim or the other knowledgeable person) with contact information for the VAC (1-888-308-6252 or cwilliamshecksel@dioceseoflansing.org) and urge that the accusation be presented to the VAC directly;

   e.    IN ALL CASES of alleged abuse or sexual exploitation by a priest or deacon, they must inform the VAC by phone immediately (1-888-308-6252), indicate whether or not they are civilly mandated reporters and follow up by a written report within 72 hours.

(Norms 3.a - 3.c presume the accused person is alive, but they do not depend on the current age of the victim or when the alleged incident or incidents occurred. Civil authority, and not the Church personnel, evaluates any issue regarding the civil statute of limitations. It should be noted that norms 3.d - 3.e use the term “in all cases.” See 1.g for its meaning. This process continues with Roles of Diocesan Victim

Assistance Coordinator and Legal Counsel in norms 5-7.)

ACCUSATION OF SEXUAL ABUSE OR SEXUAL EXPLOITATION OF A MINOR PLACED BY

CHURCH PERSONNEL

4. When Church personnel have reasonable cause to suspect, in cases not covered by norm 3, that a person has been, or is being sexually abused or sexually exploited, as a minor, regardless of whether the accused represented or represents the Church, they must act as following:

   a.    if mandated by civil law, they must phone an immediate verbal report (1-855-444-3911) and then send a written report within 72 hours to the Michigan Department of Human Services (DHS), as well as notify the head of their organization (their superior Church authority);

   b.    if not mandated by civil law, they are strongly urged to make this report as well as notify the head of their organization as above;

   c.    IN ALL CASES of alleged abuse or sexual exploitation by a priest or deacon, they must inform the VAC by phone immediately (1-888-308-6252), indicate whether or not they are civilly mandated reporters and follow up by a written report within 72 hours.

(In this case, no report has been made to Church personnel, and the reasonable suspicion has arisen independently. Norms 4.a - 4.b presume the accused person is alive, but they do not depend on the current age of the victim or when the alleged incident or incidents occurred. Civil authority, and not the Church personnel, evaluates any issue regarding the civil statute of limitations. It should be noted that norm 4.d. uses the term “in all cases.” See 1.g for its meaning. This process continues with Roles of Diocesan Victim Assistance Coordinator  and Legal Counsel in norms 5-7.)

ROLES OF DIOCESAN VICTIM ASSISTANCE COORDINATOR AND LEGAL COUNSEL

5. IN ALL CASES when an accusation of the sexual abuse or sexual exploitation of a minor [2] is placed against a priest or deacon and then made known to the VAC, the VAC:

   a.    informs the reporter mentioned in 3, if there is one, about the diocesan policies and procedures that will be followed;

   b.    advises victims who contact the VAC of the right to make a report to public authorities and supports this right; [4]

   c.    informs the diocesan attorney.

6.    When informed of an accusation of the sexual abuse or sexual exploitation of a minor, or of a person who habitually lacks the use of reason, by a priest or deacon, the diocesan attorney applies the Charter and the Essential Norms to the particular circumstances, and, as appropriate, convenes the members of the Review Board on behalf of the bishop [5];

7.    IN ALL CASES, an accusation of the sexual abuse or sexual exploitation of a minor, or of a person who habitually lacks the use of reason by a priest or deacon, that is reported to the diocese is reported by the diocesan legal counsel to the appropriate prosecuting attorney. [4]

(See 1.g for the meaning of "in all cases." Also see 2.1.9 Appendix I: Principles Governing the Pastoral Care of Abuse Victims.)

OTHER SUSPECTED ABUSE OR NEGLECT OF MINORS

8.    When Church personnel have reasonable cause to suspect that a minor is being neglected or abused, apart from cases of sexual abuse or sexual exploitation, regardless of whether the accused represented or represents the Church, they must act as following:

   a.    if mandated by civil law, they must phone an immediate verbal report (1-855-444-3911) and then send a written report within 72 hours to the Michigan Department of Human Services (DHS), as well as notify the superior Church authority (as head of the organization);

   b.    if not mandated by civil law, they are strongly urged to make this report as well as notify the head of their organization as above;

   c.    if a person representing the Church, whether or not a cleric, is accused of such abuse or neglect, the superior Church authority must report it to the diocesan counsel.

SUSPECTED ABUSE, NEGLECT OR EXPLOITATION OF VULNERABLE ADULTS

9. When Church personnel have reasonable cause to suspect that a vulnerable adult is being abused, neglected (even by himself or herself) or exploited, regardless of who causes this condition, and regardless of whether or not the person habitually lacks the use of reason, they must act as following:   

   a. if mandated by civil law, they must phone an immediate verbal report (1-855-444-3911) to the

Michigan Department of Human Services (DHS);

   b.    if not mandated by civil law, they are strongly urged to make this report as above;

   c.    they must also notify their superior Church authority, regardless of whether or not they are mandated to make this report, and regardless of whether or not they actually make it;

   d.    if a person representing the Church, whether or not a cleric, is accused of the abuse, neglect or exploitation, and regardless of any sexual aspect, they must also report the situation to the diocesan counsel.

   (When clergy are accused of the sexual abuse or sexual exploitation of a vulnerable adult who habitually lacks the use of reason, the diocesan counsel informs the VAC, and they proceed as in norms 5-6.)

OTHER SITUATIONS

10.    All other matters must be reported to the diocesan counsel: other actual or suspected physical, sexual, criminal or ethical misconduct by someone representing the Church. (Suspected financial-wrong doing is reported to the diocesan finance officer according to 6.A.2.)

11.    An employee who is arrested or charged with a felony must report that information to the employer. A volunteer must similarly report such information to the administrator of the parish, school or other diocesan institution. Upon receiving the report, the administrator of the place of service is to immediately contact the legal counsel of the diocese.



[1] See Michigan Child Protection Law (Act 238 of 1975), noting MCL 722.631 Privileged communications.

[2] USCCB, Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People (as rev. 2011): “Note: For purposes of this Charter, the offense of sexual abuse of a minor will be understood in accord with the provisions of

Sacramentorum sanctitatis tutela (SST), article 6, §1. ‘The more grave delicts against morals which are reserved to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith are: 1ºthe delict against the sixth commandment of the Decalogue committed by a cleric with a minor below the age of eighteen years; in this case, a person who habitually lacks the use of reason is to be considered equivalent to a minor.’”

Canon  97 §1 uses the term “minor” to mean a person who is below 18 years of age. It is equivalent to the civil term “child.” Canon 99 states that whoever habitually lacks the use of reason is considered not responsible for oneself (non sui compos) and is equated with infants.

[3]    See the Office of Child and Youth Procetion webpage on the diocesan website.

[4]    Charter, article 4: “Dioceses/eparchies are to report an allegation of sexual abuse of a person who is a minor to the public authorities. Dioceses/eparchies are to comply with all applicable civil laws with respect to the reporting of allegations of sexual abuse of minors to civil authorities and cooperate in their investigation in accord with the law of the jurisdiction in question. Dioceses/eparchies are to cooperate with public authorities about reporting cases even when the person is no longer a minor. In every instance, dioceses/eparchies are to advise victims of their right to make a report to public authorities and support this right.”

[5]    See Charter, article 2 and Essential Norms for Diocesan/Eparchial Policies Dealing with Allegations of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Priests or Deacons, norm 5 (2002; approved rev. 2006).


Date approved by Bishop


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In Committee