U.S. Catholic Bishops in their Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, drafted in Dallas in 2002 and revised in 2011, affirmed their “deep commitment to creating a safe environment within the Church for children and youth.”
In the Diocese of Dallas meeting and exceeding the mandates of the charter are the highest priority for all of our parishes, agencies and institutions. Responsibility for protection of our children, youth and vulnerable adults falls to the Diocesan Office of Safe Environment under the direction of the Chancellor. Direction of the program is in the hands of a thoroughly trained and credentialed director and staff.
The mission of the Safe Environment Program is outlined in its Mission Statement: “As Christian adults, we have a moral and legal responsibility and are entrusted by God with the spiritual, emotional and physical well-being of minors and vulnerable adults. As they participate in activities within or sponsored by our diocese, our parishes and our schools, it is our responsibility and commitment to provide an environment which is safe and nurturing.”
Every priest, deacon, religious and layperson on the staff of the diocese, its parishes, institutions and agencies, are required to complete a safe environment program each year. All volunteers whose work involves minors or vulnerable adults have the same requirement. In addition, to the required classes, each must also pass a criminal background check.
Staff and volunteers are trained to recognize warning signs of physical, sexual and mental abuse as well as neglect, and to immediately report any incidents to the police or Child Protective Services.
Each institution must have a safety officer responsible for implementing the safe environment program. Annual audits are conducted to insure compliance.
As Bishop, I am totally committed to the protection of our children, youth and vulnerable adults, but it is important to recognize that every person shares that responsibility and is required by Texas law to report any incidents of which they are aware.
It is not only the law; it is our duty as Christians.
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