Louisville, KY Archdiocese Unveils New Abuse
by Peter Smith, The Courier Journal
August 28, 2003
The Archdiocese of Louisville today unveiled new policies
on preventing and responding to the sexual abuse of children,
aiming to avoid a repeat of the crisis that cut deeply into
the church's credibility and treasury.
The policies, designed to make all of the archdiocese's parishes,
schools and agencies safe for children, match and in some
cases are stricter than current state and church laws on sexual
The policies echo the decision by Catholic bishops nationwide
to bar any priest from the ministry for even a single confirmed
instance of sexual abuse, and they also call for the immediate
dismissal of any lay employee or volunteer who is involved
The archdiocese will now also report all accusations of sexual
abuse of minors to police, even if brought by an adult who
was abused as a child. Previously the church had followed
the letter of Kentucky law, which required the reporting of
abuse only if the alleged victim was still a child.
Other forms of sexual misconduct can also lead to firing
or lesser discipline under the new policies. They include
sexual harassment, such as unwelcome sexual advances or conduct,
and sexual exploitation, defined as sexual contact that an
employee has with an adult under his or her ministerial or
The archdiocese will also hold more than 25 training sessions
for church workersthis fall in conjunction with the Center
for Women and Families, a local organization advocating for
victims of domestic and sexual abuse. The sessions will focus
on detecting, preventing and reporting sexual abuse. The archdiocese
will also work with the center to adopt a "safe touch"
program in the Catholic school curriculum, teaching children
how to protect themselves.
The archdiocese released the policies as it works to regroup
from the $25.7 million settlement paid this summer to 243
victims of sexual abuse by priests and others connected with
the church over the past half-century. The archdiocese has
also reduced its budget, cut one-fifth of its staff and raised
parish assessments paid to support the archdiocese. Eleven
lawsuits remain pending.
"No child or adult should ever experience abuse at the
hands of a church minister, Archbishop Thomas C. Kelly wrote
in a letter introducing the new policies. "Past failures
add urgency to the need to take decisive action in the future."
Key elements of the policies "include the mandate to
respond with compassion and care to victims of sexual abuse,
to report all instances of child abuse to authorities, and
to remove offenders permanently from ministry," he wrote.
The policies are designed to harmonize with Kentucky state
law and with new, stricter policies adopted last year by American
bishops and approved by the Vatican. They update previous
policies that the archdiocese had published on sexual abuse
in 1993. The policies now appear on the archdiocese's Web
which also provides links to church policies and other information
on sexual abuse as well as to organizations that deal with
Highlights of the policy revisions:
- Under the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young
People approved last year by bishops and ratified by the
Vatican, any priest who has sexually abused a child even
once will be permanently barred from ministry. The case
will be reported to the Vatican for possible removal of
the offender from the status of priest.
- Lay employees and volunteers who abuse will also be dismissed.
- Members of parishes, schools or agencies where an abuser
has served will be notified of the abuse and informed how
to report other allegations.
- A victim assistance coordinator will contact accusers,
providing support, counseling and information about an investigation's
progress. Kelly has appointed two staff members involved
with counseling at the Catholic Family Center, Dr. Tom Robbins
and social worker Brenda Marshall, to serve that role. The
coordinator will advise and advocate for victims making
- In some situations, the coordinator can provide funds
for therapy and information about local support groups.
- Criminal background checks will be conducted on all employees
and volunteers, as they have been on potential priests and
teachers in recent years.
- The policies say the archdiocese "presumes that victims/survivors
who come to the Church about sexual abuse, exploitation,
or harassment are being truthful" and "is committed
with justice and compassion."
- All priests and other church employees are required by
Kentucky law to report abuse to authorities. Although the
previous policy alluded to the existence of reporting requirements,
the new policy spells out the statute far more explicitly
and provides phone numbers for reporting abuse in each of
the archdiocese's 24 Central Kentucky counties.
- Even when a victim approaches the archdiocese as an adult,
the archdiocese will report the abuse to police unless the
victim brings "serious reasons" not to.
- Priests are still not required to report abuse learned
about in the confessional, an exception allowed under Kentucky
- The archdiocese will investigate all allegations but defer
such inquiries if police have an active investigation.
- Accused priests and employees will be placed on leave
pending results of the investigation.
- A review board will weigh the results of investigations
and recommend disciplinary actions to the archbishop, who
makes the final decision. As required by the bishops' charter,
Kelly last year appointed a panel, whose nine members include
priests as well as experts in medical, legal and abuse issues.
- Similar investigations take place with other cases of
sexual misconduct, and allegations of rape or other criminal
conduct must be reported to police. An employee confirmed
to have engaged in sexual exploitation or harassment might
be fired, placed on restricted assignments or allowed to
continue working only under a "behavior contract"
spelling out expectations.
- If an allegation cannot be substantiated, the board will
recommend whether to return the accused to work and under
- If someone has been falsely accused, the archdiocese "will
work with the accused to restore his or her good name,"
inform the affected parish and advise the accused on legal
- All employees must agree to a two-page Code of Conduct
spelling out proper boundaries for behavior with children,
including having two adults at all events, never touching
children when alone or taking overnight trips alone with
them. Many of the abuse cases that came to light in the
recent archdiocesan scandal involved children who went alone
with priests on field trips or overnight stays.
- The archdiocese pledges a "commitment to transparency"
in dealing with media and parishioners, balancing it "with
due regard owed to the privacy and reputations of all persons
- accused, victims and others."