The Archdiocese of Chicago adopted the United States Conference of Catholic Bishop’s Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, including its “one-strike” rule that removed priests with even one substantiated allegation of child sexual abuse permanently from ministry. Every allegation, regardless of when the child sexual abuse is alleged to have occurred, is referred to the civil authorities.
Building on a decade of experience in handling abuse cases, in 2003, the Archdiocese of Chicago created the Office for the Protection of Children and Youth (OPCY) to bring together the various ministries within the archdiocese that had been operating to ensure the archdiocese is a safe place for children. Its offices work together to stay current on preventing and responding to child sexual abuse.
Office for Assistance Ministry (OAM) personnel reach out and extend supportive services to victim-survivors from the moment they come forward with an allegation of clergy sexual abuse. This includes traveling throughout the country to meet with and listen to victim-survivors. OAM personnel also provide the opportunity for victim-survivors to receive independent professional counseling from fully accredited therapists. Additionally, OAM personnel have worked in collaboration with victims-survivors to respond to their need for healing. This has led to the development of the Healing Garden, annual Mass for Hope and Healing and Pinwheel Service for Child Abuse Prevention, victim-survivor led peace circles, and the Healing Voices magazine. To date more than 400 victim-survivors and family members have been served by OAM personnel.
Office of Child Abuse Investigation and Review (CAIR) is headed by a lay professional who provides a compassionate and thorough process for receiving and investigating reports of child abuse against archdiocesan personnel. Archdiocese personnel notify public authorities of all reports of possible sexual abuse of a minor from any date, regardless of legal requirements.
The Director of CAIR staffs the Independent Review Board, which is an advisory board for the Cardinal. The Board’s main charges are ensuring the safety of children and determining a cleric’s fitness for ministry. The Board has met more than 230 times.
Safe Environment Office personnel provide resources to educate archdiocesan clergy, employees and volunteers on how to prevent child sexual abuse, how to recognize sex offender behavior and how to create safe environments for children and youth.