The Diocese of St. Petersburg maintains a comprehensive screening and training process.
On April 15, 1992, the Diocese of St. Petersburg began to require a background screening and fingerprinting of all employees and clergy, as well as volunteers who have the care, responsibility, and/or supervision of minors. Beginning in July 1997, the Diocese also required those having the care, responsibility and/or supervision of vulnerable adults (i.e. elderly, disabled, etc.) to be screened and fingerprinted. We have completed approximately 85,000 background screenings and individuals are required to be rescreened every five years. Also, since 2002, we have required these individuals to be Safe Environment trained and training is renewed every five years.
The Diocese of St. Petersburg teaches young people how to protect themselves.
In 2019, the Diocese trained over 27,000 young persons on personal safety and awareness of potential exploitation and boundary violations through the Safe Environment Student Education Program in all parish and Catholic school programs for children and youth. This training program began in 2002.
The Diocese of St. Petersburg urges individuals to report sexual abuse to authorities.
Anyone who has been abused is urged to call law enforcement and the Florida Department of Children and Families Abuse Hotline at 1-800-962-2873. Anyone aware of abuse is mandated by the state to call law enforcement and the Florida Department of Children and Families Abuse Hotline at 1-800-962-2873. We also urge anyone abused by Church personnel (clergy, a church employee or volunteer) or a contractor/vendor, to call the Diocese of St. Petersburg’s Victim Assistance Coordinator, John Lambert, LCSW. He can be reached by phone at 1-866-407-4505 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. He is available to coordinate pastoral care and offer assistance. Instructions on how to file an abuse complaint can also be found on the following webpage:https://www.dosp.org/safe-environment/how-to-file-an-abuse-complaint/
If any priest abuses a child or vulnerable adult, he is removed from ministry.
When even a single act of sexual abuse by a priest or deacon is admitted or is established after an appropriate process in accord with canon law, the offending priest or deacon will be removed permanently from ecclesiastical ministry, not excluding dismissal from the clerical state, if the case so warrants.
The Diocese of St. Petersburg reports all allegations to law enforcement.
The Diocese of St. Petersburg takes all allegations of sexual abuse of a minor by a priest or deacon seriously. First, the State Attorney in the jurisdiction in which the alleged abuse took place is informed of any allegation.
Second, when an allegation is received, the Diocese initiates an investigation that is conducted promptly and objectively after any investigation by law enforcement is completed.
During the investigation, the accused is presumed innocent until determined otherwise. If there is sufficient evidence that sexual abuse of a minor has occurred, the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith is notified. The Bishop withdraws the accused from exercising sacred ministry or any ecclesiastical office pending the outcome of the process. When even a single act of sexual abuse by a priest or deacon is admitted or is established after a canonical process, the offending priest or deacon will be removed permanently from ministry.
The Diocese of St. Petersburg is Accountable to Independent Review
The Diocese of St. Petersburg has a proven commitment to removing clergy who have committed abuse against minors. Since 2002, the Diocese has followed the norms of the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which requires that no member of the clergy who has admitted or has been established to have abused a minor is permitted to remain in ministry.
The Diocesan Review Board, which is comprised mostly of laypersons not employed by the Diocese, reviews the allegations received, the investigations conducted, and the actions taken in all cases involving sexual misconduct by clergy with a minor.
Also, each year, the Diocese of St. Petersburg undergoes an audit from a national independent auditing company, to ensure that it is in compliance with the norms of the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People. The annual auditing process has always found the Diocese of St. Petersburg to be in compliance with the norms of the Charter.
A consistent investigation process has been established and is followed. The Diocese uses an outside investigator, who is a former FBI agent, and the results of the investigation are then presented to our Diocesan Review Board.
We treat victims/survivors with dignity and respect and do not require confidentially agreements.
When an allegation is made regardless of any finding on the merits, the Diocesan response is to offer pastoral care and other assistance and to facilitate the healing process.
Diocesan operating accounts are not used for legal settlements.
The Diocese uses insurance coverage to pay for claims of sexual abuse. All current insurance is managed by an Insurance Trust Fund with a Board of Trustees comprised of lay and clergy members. This is a very important effort that requires good stewardship because of the responsibility required to support all diocesan activities. The Insurance Trust Fund charges parishes and schools for this insurance, purchases reinsurance, and pays all claims. We fully realize that all the funds to cover insurance costs come from our parishioners. Therefore, we make every effort to properly insure for all liabilities.
The Diocese of St. Petersburg is committed to transparency.
The Diocese of St. Petersburg lists the names of clergy and lay persons who have admitted to or have been determined to commit the sexual abuse of a minor on the diocesan website: www.dosp.org/safe-environment/credibly-accused-individuals.
For more information, please visit https://www.dosp.org/accountability.