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This Policy is intended to insure a safe environment for children and vulnerable adults at Saint Vincent Seminary and to promote the moral values, teachings and attitudes of the Catholic Church among all who live, work and study in this Community.

This Policy is adopted to affirm the obligation of all clergy, administrators, faculty, staff, employees, volunteers and seminary students of Saint Vincent Seminary to assist in identifying and preventing suspected child abuse, sexual abuse, or sexual exploitation of children and vulnerable adults; and to establish the procedures for reporting such improper behavior in compliance with the Pennsylvania Child Protective Services Law (Pa. C.S. ss 6301, May 8, 2009).

It is also the purpose of this Policy to institute guidelines to be complied with when an allegation/report is made against any member of the Saint Vincent Seminary Community who has allegedly engaged in improper sexual misconduct or abuse involving a child or a vulnerable adult.

Seminarians enrolled in Saint Vincent Seminary are subject to the policies and procedures of the program outlined in this document during the academic year and while participating in programs and assignments required and supervised at and away from Saint Vincent Seminary. The implementation and enforcement of this Policy in regard to Seminary Students is the responsibility of the Saint Vincent Seminary Rector, who will work in collaboration with the Director of the Office of Human Resources of Saint Vincent College, the Office of Legal Counsel, and the Office of the Delegate for Child Protection. Seminary students who are members of the Benedictine Order of Saint Vincent Archabbey are also subject to the procedures and guidelines set forth in the Saint Vincent Archabbey Policy: “Creating a Safe Environment for the Protection of Children and Vulnerable Adults.”
 

Policy: It is the policy of Saint Vincent Seminary that sexual misconduct, sexual abuse or exploitation of any type involving a child or a vulnerable adult by any member of the Saint Vincent Seminary Community shall not be tolerated under any circumstances. The Seminary will respond promptly to all allegations/reports of abuse, will reach out to offer spiritual comfort and pastoral care to victims and their families, will cooperate fully with the appropriate civil authorities, will educate the Seminary community, and will ensure the accountability of the guidelines and procedures established and set forth in this policy to address all allegations of abuse.
General Definitions:

Seminary Community: All clergy, administrators, faculty, staff, employees, volunteers and seminary students (seminarians) living or working at Saint Vincent Seminary.

Seminary Student (Seminarian): All students, priesthood candidates, candidates for the permanent diaconate and lay persons enrolled in a course of study from pre-theology through fourth theology or the ecclesial ministry program or courses of continuing education at Saint Vincent Seminary.

Minor Child: Anyone under the age of eighteen (18).

Vulnerable Adult: Any person, over the age of eighteen (18), who, by reason of some mental infirmity, has such diminished reasoning or cognitive capabilities that they may be considered the equivalent of a minor child.

Allegation: A first person accusation of sexual misconduct, sexual abuse or exploitation of a minor brought against any Member of the Seminary Community which is reported to the Saint Vincent Seminary through any form of communication, including any that are anonymous.

Report: A third party accusation.

Sexual Abuse or Exploitation: (Legal Definition, Pa. C.S.ss 6303) The employment, use, persuasion, inducement, enticement or coercion of any child to engage in or assist any other person to engage in any sexually explicit conduct, or any simulation of any sexually explicit conduct, for the purpose of producing any visual depiction, including photographing, videotaping, computer depicting or filming, of any sexually explicit conduct or the rape, sexual assault, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, aggravated indecent assault, molestation, incest, indecent exposure, prostitution, statutory sexual assault, or other forms of sexual exploitation of children.

Child abuse: (Legal Definition, Pa. C.S. ss 6303) The term “Child Abuse” shall mean any of the following:

  • Any recent act or failure to act by a perpetrator which causes non accidental serious physical injury to a child under 18 years of age.
  • An act or failure to act by a perpetrator which causes non accidental serious mental injury to or sexual abuse or sexual exploitation of a child under 18 years of age.
  • Any recent act, failure to act or series of such acts or failures to act by a perpetrator which creates an imminent risk of serious physical injury to or sexual abuse or sexual exploitation of a child under 18 years of age.
  • Serious physical neglect by a perpetrator constituting a prolonged or repeated lack of supervision or failure to provide essentials of life, including adequate medical care, which endangers a child’s life or development or impairs the child’s functioning.

Child Pornography: Any written, printed, electronic, photographic or other depiction or description of a minor in a sexually explicit context or any material of any kind that is produced, created or displayed for the purpose of sexual gratification of adults through the exploitation of minors.

Standards of Conduct:

The following listed standards and guidelines are provided to assist Saint Vincent Seminary students in making decisions involving interactions with children and/or vulnerable adults:

Prohibited Behaviors: 

  • Using, possessing, or being under the influence of illegal drugs while in the presence of minors or vulnerable adults.
  • Using, possessing, or being under the influence of alcohol while supervising minors or vulnerable adults.
  • Known or suspected acquisition, possession, distribution, downloading and/or intentionally viewing of real or virtual pornographic images of minors under the age of eighteen (18) for the purposes of sexual gratification by whatever means using whatever technology.
  • Providing or allowing minors or vulnerable adults to consume alcohol or illegal drugs.
  • Using profanity in the presence of minors or vulnerable adults.
  • Speaking to minors or vulnerable adults in a manner that could be construed by any observer as being harsh, threatening, intimidating, shaming, derogatory, demeaning, or humiliating.
  • Discussing sexual activities or topics with minors or vulnerable adults unless it is a specific assignment requirement and the Seminarian is trained to discuss these matters and a supervising professor or pastor is present.
  • Engaging in any sexually oriented conversation with minors or vulnerable adults unless the conversations are part of a legitimate religious lesson and discussion for teenagers regarding human sexuality issues and a supervising professor or pastor is present. On such occasions, the lessons will convey to youth the Church’s teachings on these specific topics. If the minors or vulnerable adults have any further questions not answered or addressed by their individual teachers, they should be referred to their parents or guardians for clarification or counseling.
  • Acquiring, possessing or distributing sexually oriented or otherwise morally inappropriate materials (magazines, cards, videos, films, books, computer downloads and printouts, clothing, etc.)
  • Sleeping in the same beds, sleeping bags, or confined spaces with minors and/or vulnerable adults.
  • Engaging in sexual contact with minors or vulnerable adults. For the purpose of this Policy, sexual contact is defined as any touching of the person of a minor or vulnerable adult for the purpose of sexually arousing or gratifying either person.
  • Seminarians are prohibited from transporting minors or vulnerable adults without the express permission of their parent or guardian and must be accompanied by another adult.
  • Seminarians are prohibited from unnecessary and /or inappropriate physical contact with minors or vulnerable adults while in a vehicle.
  • Seminarians are prohibited from having minors or vulnerable adults stay in their seminary rooms or in their rooms when assigned for parish duties.
  • Seminarians are prohibited from using physical discipline in any way for behavior training of minors or vulnerable adults. No form of physical discipline is acceptable. This prohibition includes spanking, slapping, pinching, hitting, and any other physical force as retaliation or correction for inappropriate behaviors by minors or vulnerable adults.

Supervision of Programs or Activities that Involve Minors and/or Vulnerable Adults: 

  • Seminarians who are assigned to work with minors and/or vulnerable adults on a regular basis must participate in training that addresses their role in protecting them.
  • Extracurricular Programs, activities, or Church functions that involve seminarians working with minors and/or vulnerable adults, should be supervised by at least two adults.
  • Seminarians serving in leadership roles shall be aware of all programs for minors and vulnerable adults that are sponsored by their parish, school, or other institution of assignment. There shall be adequate adult supervision of these programs and activities at all times.

Criminal Background Checks and Safe Environment Training:

In compliance with the admission requirements, all seminary students are required to obtain and submit a current criminal history background record check, from the state(s) where they have resided, for the previous five years to their application. (FBI fingerprint record check is acceptable) A Pennsylvania Child Abuse History Clearance is required for all seminary students. Safe Environment Training and Child Abuse Awareness Training (Virtus) are offered and attendance is required for all pre-theology or first year seminary students, unless they have previously attended Virtus training.  The Seminary Academic Dean and or Vice Rector may waive this training requirement upon receipt of a VIRTUS training certificate from the requesting student. Documentation relating to the criminal history background record checks and Pennsylvania Child Abuse History Clearances along with attendance records for child abuse awareness training will be maintained in the seminary student’s academic file.
 

Roles and Responsibilities:

Rector:

Allegations/reports of sexual misconduct or abuse may come from a variety of sources, including alleged victims or their family members, diocesan officials, members of the community, a colleague in the work or school community, or from an alleged perpetrator. In a specific case where a seminary student of Saint Vincent Seminary is accused of child abuse, sexual abuse or exploitation or any form of abusive behavior toward a minor child or a vulnerable adult, the Rector will exercise the following responsibilities:

  • The Rector will ensure that all reported allegations/reports that are brought to his attention are immediately reported to the Director of Public Safety who shall thereafter take immediate action including conducting an investigation if the incident occurred on Saint Vincent Seminary property, and notifying the Office of Legal Counsel, the Director of Human Resources and the appropriate law enforcement agency.
  • The Director of Human Resources will thereafter be responsible to notify the Department of Public Welfare by telephone (“Child Abuse Hotline” at 1-800-932-0313), and in writing, by completing the required follow up written form CY-47, for reporting to the appropriate child protective services agency within 48 hours, and in any other way required by law.
  • The Rector will also ensure that the Archabbot of Saint Vincent Archabbey and the Delegate for Child Protection are both advised of any allegation/report involving a member of the Saint Vincent Seminary Community.
  • The Rector will further advise the Diocesan Bishop who has sponsored any accused seminarian, of any allegation/report of sexual abuse, sexual exploitation or child abuse or any inappropriate sexual conduct involving a minor child or vulnerable adult by that seminarian.

Vice Rector:
In the absence of the Rector, the Vice Rector of Saint Vincent Seminary will serve as his designee and will ensure that all notifications enumerated above are completed.

Saint Vincent Seminary Community: Duty to Report

Members of the Saint Vincent Seminary Community:

  • under this Child Protection Policy, are required to report to the Rector of Saint Vincent Seminary, or his designee, all instances of sexual abuse, sexual exploitation, or child abuse involving a minor child or vulnerable adult whom they come in contact with through any seminary sponsored or associated program or activity. This includes any “second-hand” reports of abuse if the community member has “reasonable cause to suspect” that child abuse has occurred. In addition, seminarians on assignment in a parish should notify the Pastor or Parochial Vicar of that parish of any allegations/reports of child abuse that come to their attention.
  • Seminary community members should be cognizant of “warning signs” of violations regarding boundaries with minors and/or vulnerable adults. These include inappropriate or improper behaviors which are not properly classified as abuse of a minor and the action, in and of itself, does not warrant notification of the civil authorities. Members are still required to report such incidents to the Rector or his designee. Additionally, seminarians must report known or suspected acquisition, possession, distribution, downloading, and/or intentional viewing of real or virtual child pornography.
  • It is the responsibility of the seminarian who has direct knowledge of the incident to report the conduct to the Rector or his designee. The Rector or his designee will document all reports, and ensure that the proper intervention and remedial action is addressed with the accused person.

The Child Protective Services Law (CPSL) in Pennsylvania specifically grants legal immunity to any individual who, in good faith, makes a report of suspected child abuse. (“Good faith” means that the individual acted in an honest belief that an act of child abuse occurred or is ongoing. An individual can act in good faith even though it ultimately turns out they were wrong in their belief). CPSL also specifies potential criminal penalties for those persons who fail to promptly and properly report instances of child abuse.
Members of the Clergy are not permitted by Church law, and are not required by State law, to report information received privately during sacramental confession.

Review Board:

  • In compliance with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People” and the “Essential Norms for Diocesan/Eparchial Policies Dealing with Allegations of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Priests or Deacons” all Dioceses and Eparchies are required to have a Review Board established to review and assess allegations/reports of sexual abuse involving minor children or vulnerable adults.
  • Any Diocesan seminarian, who has reached the level of study for the Diaconate, or any Diocesan clergy assigned or sponsored by a Diocesan Bishop at Saint Vincent Seminary, who is accused of an allegation/report of sexual abuse, sexual exploitation or child abuse, shall be governed by the guidelines, policies and procedures for child protection implemented and practiced in their sponsoring Diocese. That Bishop may request an investigation of the incident by the Delegate for Child Protection separate and independent from any law enforcement or civil authority investigation. The results of that independent investigation may be used for presentation to the specific Diocesan Review Board.
  • Benedictine Seminarians from Saint Vincent Archabbey are subject to the procedures and guidelines set forth in the Saint Vincent Archabbey Policy “Creating a Safe Environment for the Protection of Children and Vulnerable Adults.” All other religious members attending Saint Vincent Seminary shall be subject to the guidelines, policies and procedures of their sponsoring order or eparchy.
Response to Victims:

The appropriate spiritual guidance and pastoral response for any victim of sexual abuse by a Member of the Saint Vincent Seminary Community will be coordinated by the Rector or his designee. The intention of the pastoral response is to provide appropriate spiritual and psychological help to anyone affected by the alleged misconduct.

Civil Authorities:

As previously outlined in this Policy, all allegations/reports of sexual misconduct or abuse committed by a Saint Vincent Seminary Community Member shall be reported in a timely manner to the proper civil authorities in the jurisdiction in which the alleged incident occurred. Saint Vincent Seminary will comply with the reporting requirements of Pennsylvania Law (Title 23, Pa.C.S. ss 6301, Child Protective Services Law) and recognizes the right of an individual to report to civil authorities any allegation/report of sexual misconduct unlawful according to State and Federal Law. Saint Vincent Seminary Community Members are advised that in addition to notifying the Rector of Saint Vincent Seminary, neither this Policy nor the laws of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania prohibit them from also directly contacting either the Pennsylvania State Police or the Department of Public Welfare to report instances of sexual misconduct or abuse.


 

 



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