Review finds Archdiocese of Chicago needs stronger policies to report ‘grooming’ behavior that can lead to child abuse

An independent review of Archdiocese of Chicago policies on child sexual abuse found that church officials needed to improve how they spot, report and discipline “boundary violations” and other behavior that could lead to abuse.

The archdiocese announced the report’s findings Monday while Cardinal Blase Cupich met with the Chicago Tribune Editorial Board to discuss the ongoing scandal of sexual abuse in the Roman Catholic Church. The archdiocese shared a summary of the report, but it did not include the full review authored by Monica Applewhite, a Texas-based expert in abuse prevention.

Applewhite found that the archdiocese needed to improve how it responds to, investigates and documents “boundary violations and other risky behavior that often precede misconduct,” according to a archdiocese statement on the review.

While such behavior is addressed in the archdiocese’s code of conduct, Applewhite said it should be a strictly enforced policy rather than an educational guideline. Her recommendations included creating more guidance for how to report such behavior, and to outline what consequences someone would face if he or she didn’t comply.

Applewhite said identifying boundary violations — such as giving special treatment to a child or allowing him or her to break a rule — is important because the abuse of children usually doesn’t happen suddenly. Instead, perpetrators often establish a relationship with the child before the abuse starts, actions sometimes referred to as grooming.

“They are going to get closer and closer to a child and then cross that boundary once they establish that relationship,” Applewhite said.

She reviewed the policies and forms used by the archdiocese and gave church officials a list of recomme...

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