USCCB Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People

The Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People is a comprehensive set of procedures originally established by the USCCB in June 2002 for addressing allegations of sexual abuse of minors by Catholic clergy. The Charter also includes guidelines for reconciliation, healing, accountability, and prevention of future acts of abuse. It was revised in 2005, 2011, and 2018.

During the June 2018 Plenary Assembly, the full Conference of Bishops voted in favor of proposed revisions to the Charter. The revisions are the result of the dedicated efforts and collaboration of the Committees on the Protection of Children and Young People; Canonical Affairs and Church Governance; Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations; the National Review Board, and the Office of General Counsel.

Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People (2018 Revisions)

Highlights of the revisions are as follows:

Preamble: A call for dioceses/eparchies to use what has been learned from the past, including the Causes and Context Study, has been added. The recommendations provided in that study can be used to strengthen the protection of children and young people in the care of the Church through ongoing education, situational prevention, and additional oversight and accountability. A sentence has also been added for dioceses/eparchies to “continue to help victims recover from the crimes of abuse and to strive to prevent these tragedies from happening again.” Additional statements regarding ongoing support for victims/survivors have also been included.

Article 2: The phrase “other media” has been added as a means of promoting the procedures to make an allegation of abuse. This is to highlight the importance of utilizing digital media to promote the reporting of abuse.

Article 4: The clause “with due regard for the seal of the Sacrament of Penance” has been added regarding the reporting of an allegation to public authorities, due to recent challenges to the inviolability of the seal of confession

Article 6: Changes were made to emphasize that all those who have contact with minors abide by standards of behavior and appropriate boundaries. Formerly, these articles were limited to those in “positions of trust.”

Article 10: A statement has been added for the National Review Board to continue monitoring the recommendations derived from the Causes and Context Study.

Article 13: Changes have been made to ensure that all those whose duties include contact with minors receive background checks, rather than limiting it to those with “ongoing, unsupervised” contact with minors. Another sentence was added stating, “Each diocese/eparchy is to determine the application/renewal of background checks according to local practice.” Within this article, changes have also been made to clarify the process for issuing letters of suitability for non-incardinated priests.

Article 17: Diaconal formation has been added to the commitment of dioceses to strengthen initial and ongoing formation programs. The National Directory for the Formation of Permanent Deacons was also added to this article.

Conclusion: A statement has been added reserving authoritative interpretations of the Charter to the Conference of Bishops. The next time the Charter will be reviewed will be in 2025 or 7 years.