The Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People (The Charter) was established in 2002 in response to allegations of sexual abuse of minors by Catholic clergy. The Charter includes a set of procedures for addressing these types of allegations, as well as guidelines for prevention of future acts of abuse. It aims to promote healing and reconciliation with victims and to create a safe environment within the Church, so that future violations will be less likely to occur.
Article 13 of The Charter states that dioceses/eparchies are required to conduct background checks on all church staff and volunteers whose duties include ongoing, unsupervised contact with minors. All staff members and volunteers working with children are also required to undergo training in the interest of providing a safe environment for children and young people within the Church. To sustain accountability, all parishes and schools are required to submit documentation detailing which workers had completed the screening and training, and which ones had not.
The Secretariat of Child and Youth Protection (SCYP) is also required to submit an annual compliance report documenting dioceses/eparchies’ progress in implementing and maintaining the standards set forth in The Charter. The report must include the names of dioceses/eparchies that are not in compliance.
According to the 2017 SCYP report, 66 Catholic parishes and schools in the Archdiocese of Newark were not in compliance with The Charter. It is unclear whether the parishes and schools conducted the background checks and training but failed to file the required paperwork, or whether they failed to conduct the required background checks and training altogether.
All parishes and schools are required to apply for access to a server dedicated to performing background checks that investigate workers’ criminal history. According to the SCYP, some parishes and schools have neither applied for access, nor initiated the background check process.
Those charged with overseeing compliance urge parishes to prioritize background checks and training. Pastors are called to make announcements at the end of Mass regarding employee and volunteer compliance.
More than a dozen schools and parishes on the list cite staffing issues and high turnover rates as a major hindrance to compliance. However, various authorities recognize that the noncompliance issue is problematic, and that background checks and training are a must. The director of communications for the Archdiocese of Newark stated that the Archdiocese will be acting aggressively to bring any noncompliant parishes into full compliance.
Churches and schools should bring themselves into compliance with The Charter by meeting several standards as set forth by the Archdiocese, including: