Tuesday, June 18, 2013
Catholic Investigator Visits Alaska to Ensure Child Safety
Each diocese has codes of conduct spelling out what is acceptable behavior, and each is mandated by church law to follow 17 essential norms to protect children.
FAIRBANKS - "A watershed moment for the Catholic church" is how Teresa Kettelkamp describes the establishment of the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in 2002.
Since 2005, the Washington, D.C.-based director of the USCCB's Office of Child Protection has been making certain the 195 Roman Catholic dioceses are complying with the charter and protecting children.
"The church of today is not the church of 10 years ago," Kettlekamp told a gathering of parishioners Sunday morning at Sacred Heart Cathedral.
Dioceses are now required to submit detailed audits annually affirming they are in compliance with the charter's required policies and procedures to protect children.
"Our mantra is, 'We trust the churches, but we verify what you do,'" said Kettlekamp, who has an extensive background in law enforcement.
The charter's guidelines include Safe Environment training for all clergy, employees and volunteers to recognize the behavior of offenders and what to do about it.
To date, more than 2 million volunteers, employees and church personnel who have contact with children have undergone background evaluations. Candidates for ordination also are required to undergo training and evaluations.
Each diocese has codes of conduct spelling out what is acceptable behavior, and each is mandated by church law to follow 17 essential norms to protect children.<p>
Among these are a victim assistance coordinator to ensure victims/survivors are heard; a diocesan review board; and the necessity to report allegations of sexual abuse and cooperate with civil authorities.
"No longer can the church pay people to keep quiet," Kettlekamp said. "Everything the church did is no more. They cannot transfer priests without telling if there were any problems."
The design of the charter, she said, is to "form a hedge of protection" around children.
"Sexual abuse of children is an insidious evil in our midst and it's in all walks of life," Kettlekamp said.
Kettlekamp's investigative background fits her position at USCCB.
She served with the Illinois State Police for 29 years and was the first woman to attain the rank of colonel. Her career included investigating white-collar, internal and public corruption cases; supervision of 28 specially trained agents who conducted statewide investigations involving missing and/or sexually exploited children; and heading the ISP's Division of Forensic Services, the third-largest forensic system in the world.
Kettlekamp cited two multimillion-dollar studies funded by the USCCB to find out how big the sexual abuse problem was within the church, the average age and time frame of clergy abuse after ordination, and how to best to protect children in the care of the church, its schools and religious programs.
"We've learned that the best predictor of future abusive behavior is past behavior," Kettlekamp said.
Education for children on how predators groom children also is critical so that children will recognize it at the start and tell a trusted adult.
Kettlekamp said she has seen a tremendous growth in compliance and integration of the child protection charter across the country's dioceses.
"It's become normal practice," she said. "I don't get the push back I used to get a few years ago."
The incidence of child sexual abuse by clergy is not unique to the U.S. Catholic Church, and no other church to date has done as much to prevent it than the U.S. bishops," Kettlekamp said.
"Sexual abuse is very high in our society. My prayer is that what the church is doing (to prevent it) will spread to a broader society."
Contact staff writer Mary Beth Smetzer at 459-7546.
"They have lots of challenges because of the demographics and outreach here," she said, alluding to the diocese's many remote parishes reachable only by airplane.
Kettlekamp will accompany Kettler to Nulato this week as he apologizes to abuse victims and holds healing and listening sessions in the village.
The bishop has been traveling to communities throughout the diocese since last spring on similar trips to carry out one of the non-monetary mandates of the diocese's January 2010 bankruptcy settlement with more than 300 sexual abuse victims.