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US Bishops Renew Commitment to Safe Environment

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During its annual spring meeting held earlier this month in Seattle, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) renewed its 2002 commitment to provide a safe environment for Catholic youth and minors. The Bishops re-affirmed the pledges made in The Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People and made several revisions.

The Charter's commitment promotes healing and reconciliation, guarantees effective responses to allegations and ensures accountability of procedures established by the US Church requiring Dioceses to establish policies and procedures to be in compliance with the Charter. The revisions bring the Charter into line with the most recent Vatican instructions in this area, including specifically mentioning child pornography as a crime against church law and holding that abuse of someone who habitually lacks reason, for example, someone with mental retardation, is equivalent to child abuse.

In a letter to the Priests serving in the Diocese of Raleigh, Most Reverend Michael F. Burbidge expressed his "deep gratitude for all that you do to ensure a safe environment for our children and young people." He noted the importance of the ongoing work of the Diocesan Safe Environment Office, Parish Safe Environment committees and their involvement in annual Deanery Safe Environment meetings. "These meetings provide timely updates and tools for keeping the documentaiton needed for the annual USCCB audit for Charter compliance," Bishop Burbidge wrote.  "As part of our commitment," the Bishop said, "the Diocese remains ready to assist anyone who has suffered abuse as a minor and their family members."

Information on the Diocesan Safe Environment Program is available on the Diocesan website. The USCCB Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People is available on the Conference website.