Erie Diocese announces new policy to protect children - WFMJ.com News weather sports for Youngstown-Warren Ohio

Erie Diocese announces new policy to protect children

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ERIE, Pa. -

The Diocese that covers Catholic churches and schools in Mercer and 12 other counties in Northwest Pennsylvania has unveiled what it says is a new policy for the protection of children.

Last month the diocese said that it planned to take steps similar to the Diocese of Buffalo that recently published a list of the names of 42 priests who have been credibly accused of sex abuse.

In an announcement Friday, the Diocese announced an update in policy regarding sexual abuse allegations. 

An outline says that the biggest changes to the policy include:

  • An expansion of the scope of the abuse sought to be prevented to include sexual, physical, emotional, and neglectful abuse;
  • Inclusion of numerous detailed examples and red flags in both our policy and training materials to educate people on how to recognize abuse or unsafe situations;
  • Reliance by the diocese on independent, professional investigators and lawyers to ensure the best possibility of arriving at the truth concerning each allegation, while respecting the rights of all and offering full cooperation with law enforcement; and
  • The creation of a transparent and centralized system to encourage abuse reporting, screen personnel, document investigative findings, and inform the community about abuse-related employment or volunteerism decisions.

That final point, the transparency, includes operating a website in which the diocese lists the names of individuals who were previously employed by (or volunteered for or considered by) the Diocese of Erie or any related agency, but are now are prohibited from such employment (or volunteerism). 

That list includes those who are still living and those who have passed. 

According to the diocese, some of the names on the list may be recognizable as a result of a criminal conviction or other public report, however, other names are being disclosed publicly for the first time. 

Officials say some people on this list cannot be convicted of a crime because of the passage of time, legal technicalities, their present whereabouts or mental state, or other factors; nonetheless, these people will not be accepted as employees or volunteers by the Diocese of Erie.  

 However, officials say every person named on this list was credibly accused of actions that, in the diocese’s judgment, disqualify that person from working with children.  Such actions could include the use of child pornography, furnishing pornography to minors, corruption of minors, violating a child-protection policy, failure to prevent abuse that they knew to be happening, and — in some cases — direct physical sexual abuse or sexual assault of minors.

A list of those priests, coaches, and volunteers can now be found on the diocese website: http://www.eriercd.org/policyupdate.htm

In February the Erie Diocese removed two priests, one from Kennedy Catholic High School, prohibiting them from contact with minors and public ministry.

Father Sean Kerins, 27, was removed as chaplain at Kennedy Catholic High School in Hermitage.

He was also assigned to Church of the Good Shepherd Parish in West Middlesex.

Diocese officials said the Catholic Schools Office of the Diocese was informed by Kennedy Catholic of a possible inappropriate communication from Father Kerins to a student at Kennedy.

The diocese determined that the series of text messages in question were inappropriate according to diocesan and school standards and in violation of diocesan policy.

Bishop Lawrence Persico has removed Father Kerins from his assignments to Kennedy Catholic High School as well as Good Shepherd Parish.

The diocese encourages anyone who has experienced sexual abuse or misconduct by a member of the clergy or any employee or volunteer of the church to contact law enforcement.

To report abuse to the independent investigators retained by the Diocese of Erie, email ErieRCD@KLGates.com.

In addition, victims or concerned individuals can report abuse to ChildLine, an outreach of the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services, by calling 800-932-0313. The line is open 24/7, and callers may choose to remain anonymous.

Victims also are welcome to contact the diocese directly to report abuse at 814.451.1543. Counseling assistance is available for victims and/or their families through the diocesan victim assistance coordinator, Dr. Robert Nelsen, who can be reached at 814.451.1521. 

The diocese' full, updated policy can be read here: 

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