“There will be well-publicized diocesan standards of ministerial behavior and appropriate boundaries for clergy and for any other church personnel in positions of trust who have regular contact with children and young people” (USCCB Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, Article 6)
To foster and maintain an atmosphere of trust and safety in its ministry to minors, the Diocese of Saginaw has established Standards of Ministerial Behavior for Those Working with Children and Young People. We will set appropriate boundaries to assure a safe place for our children and young people in all church ministries and programs. These Standards of Behavior do not presume to provide the answers to all ethical standards for those adults who provide care for children and young people, however, these standards will help to delineate boundaries by which ethical questions can be evaluated. The diocese expects all church personnel to maintain high standards of professional, ministerial, and ethical behavior.
- A minor is defined as anyone under the age of eighteen (18).
- Physical abuse is non-accidental injury that is intentionally inflicted upon a minor.
- Sexual abuse is any contact of a sexual nature that occurs between a minor and an adult.This includes any activity that is meant to arouse or gratify the sexual desires of an adult. Abuse of minors is contrary to the teachings of the Church and to state law and is never permissible. Church personnel have a responsibility to actively protect minors from all forms of abuse.
- Church personnel are any persons, lay, religious, or clergy who are employed by or who volunteer for a diocesan agency, a parish, or an educational facility.
Responsibility for adherence to these Standards of Behavior rests with church personnel. Disregard of these standards by church personnel will be dealt with by the appropriate employing/appointing organization’s representatives (e.g. the pastor, pastoral administrator, principal, etc.). Remedial action may take various forms from counseling to removal from ministry.
B. General Guidelines
The following guidelines are intended to assist church personnel in making decisions about interactions with minors in church sponsored and affiliated programs. These standards are not intended to supersede canon or civil law. For clarification of these guidelines or for guidance for behaviors not addressed here, contact an immediate supervisor. Church personnel working with minors should use appropriate judgment to ensure trusting relationships marked by personal and professional integrity.
- Ministry to minors respects the rights of parents/guardians to educate and form their children in faith. Therefore, activities with minors are to be conducted with the explicit knowledge and consent of parents or legal guardians.
- Church personnel are responsible for releasing minors in their care only to parents or legal guardians, or other persons designated by parents or legal guardians at the close of services or activities.
- Church personnel are to remain with minors at the end of a class, activity, event, etc. Minors are not to be left unattended or unsupervised. It is strongly recommended that two adults be present with minors at all times.
- Church personnel are prohibited from the use, possession, or being under the influence of alcohol or any illegal drug while working with minors or while in their company. They are also prohibited from furnishing alcohol or illegal drugs to minors or permitting minors to use such in their presence.
- Church personnel will not administer medication of any kind to a minor without written permission from a parent or legal guardian.
- Church personnel may occasionally provide transportation for minors. When doing so, the following guidelines should be observed.
- It is strongly recommended that two adults be present when transporting minors.
- Minors are never to be transported without written permission from parent or legal guardian.
- Minors are to be transported directly to their destination. No unauthorized stops are to be made.
- Adults will follow all transportation guidelines from Catholic Schools and Parish Religious Education Programs.
- Church personnel are to speak to minors in a respectful manner and are prohibited from speaking in a way that is abusive or demeaning. All are to refrain from using inappropriate language/humor in the presence of minors.
- Church personnel are prohibited from engaging in any sexually oriented conversations with minors. However, it is expected that classes may address human sexuality issues. If minors have other questions not answered by teachers/curriculum, they should be referred to their parents or legal guardians.
- Church personnel are never to be nude in the presence of minors. Changing and showering facilities for adults are to be separate in time from those for minors.
- Church personnel are prohibited from possessing sexually oriented materials (magazines, cards, videos, films, clothing, dvd’s, etc.) or accessing similar materials on any electronic media in the presence of minors or on church property.
- Church Personnel may not acquire, possess or distribute child pornography. To do so is sexual misconduct and criminal behavior.
- Church personnel are prohibited from sleeping in the same beds, sleeping bags, or small tents with minors.
- Priests, unmarried deacons, religious and seminarians will not allow an unrelated minor to stay overnight in their private accommodations or residences unless the minor’s parent or guardian is present. Married deacons, staff and volunteers will not share overnight accommodations with an unrelated minor if no other adult is present.
- Counseling areas should have transparent windows or open doors. Care should be taken to have another adult in the general vicinity during counseling sessions.
C. Physical Contact:
- Touching should be age appropriate and based on the need of the minor and not on the need of the adult. Avoid physical contact when alone with a minor. If a minor initiates physical contact, an appropriate, limited response is proper. Touch should be public, appropriate and non-sexual.
- Do not engage in the physical discipline of a minor. Discipline problems should be handled in coordination with a supervisor and/or the parent/guardian of the minor.
- Appropriate affection between church personnel and minors is important for a child’s development. It is a positive part of church life and ministry and should be given in public but not in isolated areas.
- Kinds of physical contact to be avoided would include (but not be limited to): tickling, rough-housing and/or wrestling, piggyback rides, any type of massage given by an adult to a minor, any form of unwanted affection, and remarks that refer to physique or body development
D. Program Supervision
- Parents or legal guardians are encouraged to be part of services and programs that involve their children. In some circumstances, the parent/guardian will need to make arrangements with the principal or program director. In other circumstances, parents/guardians may be encouraged to “drop by” the service or programs unannounced. The safety of the children dictates the option.
- Youth programs must follow the policies set by: Office of Catholic Schools, Office of Faith Formation and /or Office of Youth Ministry. Youth programs should have a minimum of two (2) adult chaperones. Larger groups of youths should have at least one (1) adult chaperone for every ten (10) minors.
- Special care needs to be taken where a program is sponsored or administered by only one adult or by anyone under the age of 21. It is strongly recommended that two(2) adults(or more) always be present or in proximity when minors are in a church/school building/program.
- In meeting and/or pastoral counseling situations involving a minor, the presence or proximity of another adult is strongly recommended. However, if those situations where the presence of another adult is not usual or practical (e.g. music lesson, disciplinary meeting with a teacher, etc.) another adult should be informed that the meeting will be taking place or the doorway should be left open.
- It is recommended that classrooms and counseling rooms have glass inserts in doors so that general observation/supervision can occur during programs/classes with minors.
E. Reporting Concerns
All church personnel are required to report violations of the Standards of Behavior for Those Working with Children and Young People by an adult, employee, or volunteer to that person’s immediate supervisor.
All church employees and volunteers who are mandated reporters under Michigan law must report to Child Protection Services (CPS) and/or State Police any situation in which they have reasonable cause to believe that a minor is being neglected or physically or sexually abused.
The Standards of Behavior for Those Working with Children and Young People is to be given to all diocesan, parish and school employees. It is also given to parish/school volunteers who work regularly with children/youth. The Acknowledgment Form is to be signed by the employee or volunteer and witnessed/signed by parish/school personnel. A copy is to be left in the parish/school file with a copy sent to the diocesan Compliance Office. (Revised May, 2016)