Archdiocese of Washington Revises Child Protection Policy, SNAP Reacts
Church officials in Washington D.C. have revised their child protection policy, claiming to add new protections. However, it is not policies that need to be changed, but the actions of those charged with enforcing those policies that needs to change if the faithful are to be protected.
Over the years we have often seen church officials tout policy changes as if having a few wrong words on paper is the reason that children and vulnerable adults have been abused by local priests or nuns and been ignored by bishops and cardinals. But it is not.
We believe that the reason for the church’s deeply-rooted and long-standing abuse and cover-up scandal is simple: it is because those who conceal abuse are virtually never sanctioned. To us, today’s move from church officials in Washington D.C. is another example of the ‘go to’ move by embattled church officials: tweak policy, pretend it is real reform, and hope folks buy it.
But what good is a policy when those who break it are not punished? There has been a national “zero tolerance” abuse policy for more than 17 years. Can anyone name more than a handful of Catholic employees in the country who have been suspended or fined or fired for violating even one part of that policy? Consequences for ignoring, hiding or enabling abuse in the church are basically non-existent.
One archdiocesan staffer was quoted as saying “adding safe environment (provisions to the policy) is a game changer. . .showing community members that there is zero tolerance for abuse.”
But again, zero tolerance has been the policy of the USCCB since 2002. A real game-changer would be the archbishop announcing “today, I’m firing this local monsignor because he refuses to fingerprint all his staff, violating our abuse policy.” Or “today, I’m suspending this local choir director, because she suspected but kept silent about abuse.”
If church officials want to “show zero tolerance for abuse,” then they should expose and discipline those who tolerate abuse. It is time for promising changes via policy to stop, and for taking action against those who violate policy to start.
(SNAP, the Survivors Network, has been providing support for victims of sexual abuse in institutional settings for 30 years. We have more than 25,000 survivors and supporters in our network. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)