The Diocesan Policy for Protection of Children,
Youth and Vulnerable Adults
Sexual Harassment is any unwanted or inappropriate sexual conduct or language with others. This conduct entails unwelcome sexual advances, request for sexual favours, or other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature when submission to or rejection of this conduct explicitly or implicitly affects an individual’s status such as employment, or when it interferes with an individual’s performance or when it creates intimidation, and a hostile or offensive environment. Harassment may be interpreted as the behaviour the victim perceives as offensive.
Harassment is contrary to basic respect due to all persons. In this case the victims may be employees or others who feel obliged to continue in their present circumstance. Perpetrators are often the ones in power and may or may not be aware of their abuse of power and the discomfort it causes the victim.
The Archdiocese of St. Boniface will not tolerate sexual harassment in the workplace, among its employees, volunteers or parishioners. People should feel secure and respected at all church activities. In a spirit of common mission all who work together in the church must be alert to even the beginnings of harassment, and eliminate it. (Please refer to appendix A “Sexual Harassment” from the Manitoba Human Rights Commission.) .
Sexual abuse is comprised of contacts or interactions between a child and an adult when the child is being used as an object of sexual gratification for the adult. A child is abused whether or not this activity involves explicit force, whether or not it involves genital or physical contact, whether or not it is instituted by the child, and whether or not there is discernible harmful outcome. In the context of this policy, we would apply the term equally when the victim is any vulnerable person.
A “vulnerable person” is anyone of any age who might easily be exploited by another. This would include children, youth and some adults. These people are at a disadvantage and are unable to fully protect themselves. This vulnerability may be caused by anything that limits mature judgement and free activity.
Vulnerable persons may be of any age or gender. They may have personal handicaps and could be:
- mentally challenged,
- emotionally susceptible,
- physically challenged.
Others may be socially isolated, and
- desperately in need, socially or materially, or
- unable to communicate adequately because of speech or hearing difficulties, or
- unable to understand, speak and read the language of the area, or
- living in fear, real or imagined, or
- in fear or awe of certain roles or authority figures, or
- at a disadvantage as immigrants and refugees.
While not an exhaustive description, a “vulnerable person” is one who has difficulty protecting him/herself from harm temporarily or permanently, and is at risk because of age, disability, handicap or circumstances such as emotional distress due to extreme crisis or trauma.
Vulnerable persons may be particularly susceptible to what is called “grooming”.
Grooming includes a wide variety of behaviours, such as spending large amounts of time with a particular person, affording special privileges or providing gifts, trips and other expressions of special attention. These behaviours are often designed to establish a special bond of trust and affectionate understanding between the groomer and the person who is the object of his/her attention. The behaviours can also lead the person to feel indebted to the groomer for all these kindnesses. Once this bond of trust and indebtedness is established, the stage may be set for sexual advances.
Because the pattern of a groomer is made up of observable behaviours, these behaviours need to be challenged or reported. Grooming, whether unintentional or not, is by its very nature seductive behaviour. As well as being a signal of possible future sexual activity or other abusive behaviour, grooming is in itself inappropriate. Everyone should be alert to signs of grooming, either among church personnel or others in caring for the vulnerable.
II Policy For All Who Minister To Vulnerable Persons
All Vulnerable Persons
1. All volunteers and church employees eighteen years and older involved with vulnerable persons (children, youth, vulnerable adults) are obliged to have a criminal record check and child abuse registry check and submit this to the pastor, parish life director or head of the appropriate diocesan office. A copy of this is to be kept in the parish or diocesan office.
2. All staff and volunteers are to be informed of the diocesan policy and receive adequate information and orientation of this policy as it applies to them and their particular circumstances.
3. Only roadworthy passenger vehicles may be used for church related transportation. People may not be transported in truck beds, campers, trailers etc.
4. In the event of any concerns of misconduct or abuse the diocesan protocol applies, which may include obligation to report to appropriate civil authority. In cases of doubt, the concern should be referred to the pastor, parish life director or department head immediately.
1. Scrupulous attention should be given to the confidentiality of personal information given by or about persons being ministered to.
2. Priests, church staff and volunteers are not to act as financial advisors or to take on responsibility for power of attorney for a person they care for. Also, church staff and volunteers are not to be involved in the drawing of a will nor serve as a witness for a will.
3. Recognizing limits to their own competencies, staff and volunteers should not delay in making referrals to proper suitable professionals as required for spiritual, financial, or health issues (physical or psychological).
Children and Youth
1. Each parish or diocesan office must ensure that adults engaged in work with children or youth have met current diocesan training/orientation standards presently set by the program “Commit to Kids”, by the Canadian Centre for Child Protection. www.protectchildren.ca
2. Adult leadership is essential to safe and effective ministry. ”Qualified adult” is defined as a person who has been approved to work with children and youth by heads of a diocesan office, pastors or parish life directors. Junior catechists and youth peer leaders should receive appropriate formation and mentoring. Qualified adults must monitor and guide the leadership techniques used by junior catechists and youth peer leaders to ensure that diocesan policies are followed.
3. Each parish or diocesan office must provide adequate adult supervision at all church sponsored youth activities. These activities could be as diverse as:
- devotional or
- service projects
4. Alcoholic beverages and illegal drugs are strictly prohibited at all youth/child events or activities.
5. Appropriate child – adult physical boundaries are to be respected at all times. Flirtatious behaviour is strictly forbidden.
6. There are to be no “off site” activities with a child or group of children without the written permission of the parent, guardian and the appropriate minister.
7. Since catechists and youth ministers are generally not qualified to professionally counsel persons, counselling relationships are not permitted. In serious matters, referral to professional assistance is recommended. This should be done with consultation with the pastor, parish life director or supervisor.
8. Hazing or harassment is prohibited in any church activity.
9. In all church sponsored events every effort must be taken to respect the privacy of children, youth and adults.
10. During overnight events no child is permitted to sleep in the same room as a teen or adult, other than with his/her own parent or guardian. Adults and minors may share a large sleeping space (for example: a dormitory, classroom, or gym) if at least two qualified adults are present.
11. Discipline of children and youth will be done constructively reflecting Christian values. Ridicule, shame, corporal punishment and abusive language are prohibited.
Allegations of Abuse or Misconduct
In any case of suspected abuse of a child or of a child at risk the diocesan protocol is to be followed. It is an obligation to report to the appropriate authority any child at risk. A full explanation is given in the Diocesan Protocol and Policy for Dealing With Allegations of Sexual Abuse. A brief summary is given in the Appendix B.
Victim’s Care Committee
Having received an allegation of abuse, it is the responsibility of the Victims’ Care Committee of the diocese to ensure that appropriate care is made available to the victim and others affected by the misbehaviour.
The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of St. Boniface wishes to provide a safe, secure and respectful environment for all persons partaking in church activities. It is with this expectation that all providing service whether they be clergy, religious, seminarians, laity, employees or volunteers are expected to adhere to this policy.
Safe Church Environment
- Safe Church Environment: Protecting Children & the Vulnerable - Introduction
- Diocesan Protocol
- Code of Conduct for Clergy
- Dealing with Allegations of Sexual Abuse
- Diocesan Victims' Care Committee
- Sexual Harassment MB Human Rights Commission
- Summary - Dealing with Sexual Abuse
- Diocesan Protocol - Complete PDF
- Report Abuse
- Frequently Asked Questions (F.A.Q.)
- How to Apply for Information Checks
- Safe Environment Coordinator
- The Church's Response