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Reforms to Protect Children

On March 6, 2017, Bishop Mark L. Bartchak and Acting United States Attorney Soo C. Song announced reforms by the Diocese to protect children from sexual abuse, ensure that all allegations of sexual abuse are immediately reported to law enforcement, and provide victims with access to a full range of counseling and support services.

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Bishop Mark L. Bartchak’s remarks from the news conference:

One year ago I made a public pledge to victim-survivors of sexual abuse and to everyone else that we will continue to look for new and more effective programs to protect children in our diocese. Today, I reaffirm that pledge.

Much has been done during the past year, including collaboration with agencies on the state and local level to assist in making services available to survivors of sexual abuse and to educate the public about the nature of sexual abuse and how to protect children. We have already retained the services of a nationally recognized expert in child protection.  During this past year, this expert has conducted a comprehensive review of Diocesan policies, surveyed our facilities and met with priests, lay employees and parishioners, to prepare a multi-dimensional and comprehensive child protection program.

This new framework includes a reconstituted Diocesan Review Board, which now has new members representing different faiths, talents and experiences, including a clinical psychologist from the Evangelical Lutheran Church and a priest of the Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Church with considerable experience in youth ministry. The new members all bring unique knowledge and experience in matters that pertain to child abuse and protection and we are grateful for their agreement and commitment. The members of our Independent Oversight Board were chosen because of their varied professional backgrounds and experiences, including a courageous survivor of child sexual abuse. I look forward to their review and recommendations as we continue to evaluate and update our youth protection efforts.

At the same time, I wish to underscore the commitment set forth in the Memorandum of Understanding to avoid any confusion of roles by limiting or restricting altogether the involvement of diocesan personnel in the functions that belong to the Diocesan Review Board and the Independent Oversight Board. I appreciate that the United States Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania has made additional resources available, including a recognized expert in child protection who serves as a consultant to the United States Department of Justice. In addition to further study, the most important thing is that these changes will be implemented. The revised protocols and procedures shall become normative for our diocese. They will be public and they will be honored.

When I made a public commitment to reforms last year, I said, “When you know more, you can do more.” We have spent the last year learning more and soliciting additional information and perspectives from many sources, including the United States Attorney’s Office. Ms. Song, I thank you for your productive leadership.  The professional staff from your office shared our deep commitment to getting this right. As a result, we are doing more and I renew my promise to protect children and young people and to find ways to assist those who have been harmed. I ask for your prayers and support for these efforts.

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