Policy and Standards

Sexual abuse is always wrong, and the friars of the Province of the Most Holy Name of Jesus (Western Dominican Province) will neither tolerate nor condone such misconduct by one of its members, nor by anyone else, clergy or lay, serving in our ministries or living in one of our communities. We are committed to safeguarding God’s people, especially the most vulnerable served in our ministries. This commitment of the Province began with our first policies to protect children and to respond to complaints of child sexual abuse in 1989, and extends particularly to those who may have been victimized by a friar. We are committed to work with such victims to offer whatever pastoral or clinical care may be necessary to help them in their recovery. We have complied with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People since its promulgation in 2002 and the Essential Norms for Diocesan/Eparchial Policies Dealing with Allegations of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Priests or Deacons since it became particular law in the U.S. in 2006. The following are policies of the Western Dominican Province:

Screening of Applicants
All applicants for admission into the province formation program undergo a thorough screening process including:
• A criminal background check in every state and county in which they candidate has resided during the past seven years and a national sex offender registry check;
• A psychological evaluation including a psycho-sexual history conducted by a licensed psychologist or a licensed mental health professional with particular skills in conducting psycho-sexual histories and in assessing psycho-sexual health in preparation for a life of celibate chastity;
• A review of publicly accessible content on all social media, personal blog sites, and web sites associated with accounts controlled by the candidate;
• A minimum of three personal references (including at least one from a family member) and two professional references for a total of five references, and six face-to-face interviews.

Training of Men in Formation
• Eight years of formation which includes training in the proper integration of human sexuality, development of the virtue of chastity, and annual evaluations;
• An initial training program in child protection (Armatus) at the beginning of formation and continuing education and safe-environment training each year;
• Novices and student brothers from other provinces who are in formation in our Province are required to complete any courses necessary to fulfill the Province’s accreditation regarding safe environment training for children and vulnerable adults;
• Annual review of the province Safe Environment Policy with the master of students and the other brothers in formation.

Ongoing Training of Friars
Friars no longer in initial formation (i.e., who have been ordained or who are cooperator [non-ordained] brothers) continue to undergo regular training throughout their lives. In particular, they are required:
• to read quarterly articles provided by Virtus, a best practices program designed to identify and prevent sexual abuse and boundary violations, and to promote spiritual, physical and emotional health among the members of religious communities;
• to participate in and complete all safeguarding training as is required by the diocese in which they live and minister;
• to annually review as a local community the Province Safe Environment Policy under the direction of the local superior;
• to study, either individually or as a community, other materials provided by Province leadership on the pastoral care of victims, the impact of abuse on victims, as well as on forming healthy personal and ministerial relationships.

Reporting Misconduct and Support
• If you have suffered sexual abuse as a child, please notify your local law enforcement agencies and report such abuse.
• If you need assistance because you have been abused by a Western Dominican friar or have concerns about the behavior of any of our friars, please contact our Vicar Provincial, Fr. Michael Fones, OP at (510) 658-8722 ext. 306, or socius@opwest.org.

Responding to Complaints
• All complaints, without exception, are reported immediately to the appropriate law enforcement agencies and the local diocese, regardless of their apparent credibility, including anonymous complaints and complaints against friars who are deceased.
• The Vicar Provincial offers to meet with or have a phone call with the person making the complaint along with the province victims’ assistance representative, Mrs. Barbara Daniels. Anyone making an allegation will be treated with respect, and every opportunity will be taken to ensure that this difficult experience does not retraumatize them.
• The Province offers financial assistance for counseling using a counselor of the complainant’s choice; additional pastoral outreach is offered as appropriate to the complainant and members of their family, if requested.

Investigation
• To protect the rights and dignity of both the victim and those against whom allegations have been made, the Province will respond promptly to all allegations of sexual abuse brought against its friars, and will investigate them thoroughly.
• Independent private investigators, either retired law enforcement agents or investigators associated with Praesidium, our accrediting agency, will investigate any allegation against a friar who is still living, and may be used in cases where the friar is deceased.
• If at any time civil or criminal proceedings are initiated against the accused friar or the Province, the Province’s procedures shall be suspended immediately by the Prior Provincial. In all other cases, the independent Province Review Board will receive the written results of the full investigation.

Province Review Board
• The Province Review Board has been established for the purpose of advising the Prior Provincial on the veracity of allegations of sexual abuse against friars of the Province, on the care of friars permanently removed from public ministry, on safety plans, on the Province Safe Environment Policy, on the fulfillment of the Praesidium Accreditation Standards, and on other matters in which the Prior Provincial wishes to consult the Board.
• The Province Review Board consists of at least five members: two friars and three lay persons, at least two of whom are women. The members are committed to preventing sexual abuse and to protecting victims and potential victims of sexual abuse. Lay members have expertise in youth (as a parent, minister, or educator), psychology, or the pertinent canonical and civil law.
• Board members have access to all documents related to every complaint received and ensure that the Province complies with civil law and the law of the Church. They have also studied the following documents: a) The US Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, b) the Essential Norms for Diocesan/Eparchical Policies Dealing with Allegations of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Priests or Deacons, c) the 2002 Conference of Major Superiors of Men (CMSM) Statement of the Assembly, d) the CMSM Accreditation Standards, e) the Safe Environment Policy of the Western Dominican Province, and f) the File Retention Policy of the Western Dominican Province.
• Upon receiving the written results of the full investigation, the Province Review Board reviews the case and advises the Prior Provincial regarding whether the allegation has been established. The Board also advises the Prior Provincial on any further cautionary measures that it deems necessary for the protection of minors or vulnerable adults.

Zero Tolerance
• Any friar who is accused of sexual abuse of a minor or vulnerable adult is placed on administrative leave while the complaint is being investigated.
• No friar with an established allegation of child abuse is ever allowed in public ministry again under any circumstance.
• Any candidate or friar in initial formation who is credibly accused or who exhibits any inappropriate behavior toward children will be dismissed from the Province.

Other Resources
• Pope Francis’ letter to the Church on the Sexual Abuse of Minors
• Pope Francis’ Motu Proprio letter Vos Estis Lux Mundi (You are the Light of the World)
This letter, published on the initiative of Pope Francis, establishes new procedural norms to combat sexual abuse and to ensure that bishops and religious superiors are held accountable for their actions
• Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People (sometimes called the “Dallas Charter”)
The Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People was approved in 2002 by the bishops of the United States Catholic Conference. The latest revision was approved June, 2018.
• Estatuto para la Protección de Niños y Jóvenes
• Facts about the Charter Click Here
• Western Dominican Province Safe Environment Policy: Minors and Vulnerable Adults: Click Here
This policy was last updated and approved by the Provincial Council in May, 2020.
• Summary of the Province’s safeguarding history Click Here