Catholic Diocese in Texas Sets the Bar for Anti-Abuse Training

By Michael Klazema on 10/26/2018

In 2002, the Boston Globe published a bombshell story that detailed decades of sexual abuse perpetrated by priests within the Catholic Church as well as subsequent cover-up efforts. Since then, countless investigations have taken place with new allegations surfacing years later. As efforts to shed light on the depth of the problem continue, such as through the pending release of the names of clergy accused of abuse, others seek ways to prevent future crimes. Churches around the country consider the model used by the diocese in Austin, Texas the gold standard in efforts to safeguard parishioners and their children.

What makes the Austin diocese notable? Its Ethics and Integrity in Ministry (EIM) office has mandated and administered anti-abuse training for almost two decades, launching its program in 2001. That puts it well ahead of any official recommendations made by the Catholic Church, giving EIM a wealth of experience in what works best. The diocese's training program not only focuses on clergy but also offers training to others who work with children, such as teachers. 

In its sessions, the EIM stresses the proactive role adults must play in protecting children plus adults with disabilities and senior citizens. Training efforts focus on how to spot red flags that can signal abuse along with the need to take swift steps to report suspicions so actions can be taken. The goal is to instill the instinct to know when something may be wrong and respond by making immediate reports. With systemic problems present in other diocese, church leaders hope this training methodology can contribute to fostering a safer space. 

Background checks form a core part of the diocese's effort to avoid allowing potential offenders into positions in which they might have the opportunity to harm someone. By carefully screening those who will work with children, the hope is to reduce the possibility of abuse as much as possible. To prevent problems from flying under the radar, the EIM uses a policy increasingly favored by businesses: regular re-screenings. Every three years, both volunteers and official church staff must re-submit to a fresh background check that looks for any new offenses. Training refreshers are mandatory over the same period to ensure the proper procedures stay fresh in the minds of church employees. 

With its built-in accountability and focus on internal culture change, it is easy to see why the Austin diocese's model of training and verification has taken root in churches elsewhere around the country. As part of a commitment to equipping organizations with the facts and protecting the innocent, provides a comprehensive tailored screening solution for churches and other religious groups. From a broad look at the entire nation's sex offender registries and the USOneSEARCH to employment and education verification, making smart determinations about employees to keep others safe is simple, straightforward, and accessible today. 

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