Remain calm (this is especially important if the person who is disclosing is a child)
- Listen carefully, with a calm, reassuring demeanor
- Offer words and actions of support to the person disclosing
- Report to the appropriate civil authorities (you may promise the person who is disclosing discretion and dignity, but you should not promise secrecy; if a crime has been committed, it must be reported)
- Consider encouraging counseling services after the initial disclosure
To Civil Authorities:
Contact your local law enforcement; numbers will vary based on your location.
If you believe someone is in immediate danger, call 911.
To confidentially report any incidence of suspected child abuse or neglect, including sexual abuse, contact the West Virginia Bureau for Children and Families’ Child Protective Services by calling the Child Abuse Hotline at 800-352-6513.
To the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston:
The Diocese encourages reporting to the appropriate civil authorities first and foremost as well as to the appropriate church authorities. To report suspected cases of sexual abuse of children by personnel of the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston to the Diocese, please contact one of the Bishop’s designees at 304-233-0880. The proper extensions are listed below.
- Sr. Ellen F. Dunn, O.P., ext. 264
- Mr. Bryan Minor, ext. 263
- Mr. Tim Bishop, ext. 353
- Rev. Dennis Schuelkens, ext. 270
Or, please call:
- The Office of Safe Environment: 304.230.1504
You may also fill out a confidential “Complaint Form for Allegations of Sexual Abuse of a Minor” by picking one up at your local parish or requesting one in the mail from Safe Environment Coordinator, Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, P.O. Box 230, Wheeling, WV 26003. The Complaint Form also is available for download on this web site by clicking on the “Download Files and Forms” section. It is listed as “Complaint Form.”
To report to the Diocese’s Victim Assistance Coordinator:
- Dr. Patricia M. Bailey: 304-242-6988
Links and information:
The Safe Environment Program by the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston consists of the following components:
- Background Checks
- Policy Relating to Sexual Abuse of Children (June 2019)
- Awareness training for adults (VIRTUS online or live training)
All three components (Background Checks, Policy Relating to Sexual Abuse of Children, and Awareness Training for Adults – VIRTUS) are mandated by the Diocese for persons seeking employment or seeking to volunteer, directly or indirectly with children, within the Diocese of Wheeling–Charleston and any entity that falls under the Diocese. Every year, the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston – as well as all other Dioceses in the United States – is audited by the USCCB’s independent agency for compliance with its Safe Environment mandate.
An employee is defined as a person who performs regular work or service and is paid by the Diocese or a Diocesan-entity (parish, school, pastoral center, etc.) This includes all priests, deacons, and seminarians.
A volunteer is a person who performs a regular service at no charge to the Diocese or Diocesan-entity.
The Safe Environment process applies to any employees or volunteers who work directly or indirectly with children/minors.
A person is considered in compliance with the Safe Environment Policy upon successful completion of all three components.
The background check includes a nationwide sex offender search. Every employee and volunteer is issued the Policy Relating to Sexual Abuse of Children so that he or she clearly knows the Diocese’s stance on this issue. And lastly, the online or live training is intended to raise awareness regarding sex abuse.
The Safe Environment process is applied to all priests, deacons, and seminarians, and they also are required to undergo additional awareness training above and beyond the initial VIRTUS module as well as more frequent background checks compared to other employees and volunteers.
SAFE ENVIRONMENT FOR CHILDREN
A Student Awareness Program has been implemented since the fall of 2005 in the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston to give children information (appropriate for their age levels) and skills to help recognize acceptable and unacceptable behaviors and how to effectively deal with those behaviors. This is a VIRTUS program called “Teaching Safety”.
The program is taught in Catholic schools and as part of Parish Schools of Religion. Teachers download lesson materials from the VIRTUS web site. Two lessons are taught each year, along with the showing of an age-appropriate introductory DVD.
Recognizing the sensitivity of this subject matter and that some parents prefer to address it directly with their children as opposed to having someone else address it, before a “Teaching Safety” class is taught, parents must be sent an Opt-Out Letter at least two weeks in advance of the lesson(s). Parents who choose to opt-out are welcome to the Teaching Safety lesson materials if they prefer to teach their children at home.
The Diocese also uses various means to promote reporting instructions to civil authorities as well as to church authorities. Reporting instructions are displayed on the Diocese’s web site, in weekly parish bulletins, on Safe Environment posters prominently displayed in parishes and schools, in Safe Environment newsletters (two per year), and in The Catholic Spirit, the Diocese’s newspaper which is sent two times per month and free of charge to every registered Catholic household in West Virginia.
The Diocese employs a Process Administrator for Safe Environment as well as a Safe Environment Coordinator at the Chancery level. In addition, there are about 150 Local Level Safe Environment Coordinators working throughout the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston in your parishes and schools to apply the Safe Environment process for their employees and volunteers.
- Report to the appropriate civil authorities
- Cooperation and investigation
- Initiate communications
- Engage Victims Assistance Coordinator
- Review by Sexual Abuse Review Board comprised of lay members
- Credible Complaint: Remove accused from position
There are two major ways the Diocese is held accountable for compliance with the Safe Environment protocol:
One: Safe Environment Audits
The Diocese is audited yearly (electronically) by an independent agency and every three years (on-site) for compliance with Safe Environment procedures and protocols, including analysis to determine that allegations of abuse are appropriately responded to and reported. The Diocese also is audited on communications, dissemination of information, documentation, record-keeping, and best safety practices as they pertain to Safe Environment. The USCCB, in turn, releases publically the independent audit agency’s summarized results in an annual report.
Two: Sexual Abuse Review Board
The Diocese’s Safe Environment efforts also are overseen by a Review Board comprised of lay members that meets regularly to ensure that proper reporting and preventive procedures are followed.
The Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston’s sex abuse awareness training provider is VIRTUS, a program and service of the National Catholic Risk Retention Group, Inc. (www.virtusonline.org).
Background checks are conducted by ScreeningOne, a professional and international screening service that uses a multi-layer authentication process for storage and access. Results are seen only by the Safe Environment Office at the Chancery. If a finding is noted on a background check, the Chancery notifies only the Priest and/or the Local Level Safe Environment Coordinator of the outcome of the background check. If no findings are present, an icon appears in the electronic file indicating that there were no findings.
The Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston employs a few means to secure information. First and foremost, background checks are conducted by ScreeningOne, a professional and international screening service that uses a multi-layer authentication process for storage and access. Also, forms containing sensitive information are housed using secure and electronic storage at the diocese as well.
Yes, active Priests in the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston are in compliance with the Safe Environment protocol. So are active Deacons as well as Seminarians. In addition, members of the clergy must undergo more frequent background checks and are subject to continuing sex abuse awareness training, which is achieved in a variety of ways throughout any given year. Compliance for clergy is documented and tracked at the Chancery level by the Office of Safe Environment. Clergy compliance is a primary focus of independent audits and Review Board briefings. Even visiting priests to the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston must provide letters of suitability from their home dioceses verifying that they have completed awareness training and achieved successful background check results.
Yes, actually, many people do.
First and foremost is the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). The USCCB’s “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People,” which was adopted in 2002 as a result of the Catholic Church’s history of abuse, serves as the framework and standard for all Safe Environment programs across the United States. The Charter also serves as the means for accountability for ensuring implementation of standards in every Diocese. Every year, Dioceses in the United States are audited by the USCCB for compliance. The results of these audits are published in an annual report that is made public worldwide. At any given time, the most recent, comprehensive report, as well as other reports related to this subject, may be found on the USCCB’s web site: www.usccb.org › at the bottom of the page, click on “Child and Youth Protection” › then down the left side of the page, click on “Reports and Research”. In turn, every Diocese in the United States receives a hard copy report of all audit results each year.
Next are all the entities that ensure your parish and this Diocese function in accordance with best safety practices. This includes our insurance provider, our legal counsel, and our finance team. There are actions every entity can take to reduce risk and liability and raise awareness. For this Diocese and Dioceses across America, implementation of a Safe Environment program is a significant step toward raising awareness and reducing risk, which, in turn, provides safer environments for children and saves time and money. Consistent, across-the-board application of the Safe Environment policy helps to ensure that this Diocese engages in due diligence to keep its employees, volunteers, and parishioners safe. For audit purposes as well as in the event of allegations, whether substantiated or unsubstantiated, the Diocese must be able to provide proof of due diligence. Keeping our children, churches, and schools safe is paramount.
The Diocese and its parishes and schools are deeply thankful for those who offer their time and talent as employees and/or volunteers. There are many church programs that would not be possible were it not for the generosity of volunteers. We want you to be active and happy in your parishes and Catholic schools.
The Office of Safe Environment’s intent is by no means meant to offend, imply misconduct, or cast suspicion. Rather, the policy and process are designed to raise awareness and aid in prevention. The policy is born from a genuine desire to help maintain the safest environment possible for everyone for church and school-related areas and activities. Application of the policy should not be taken personally. The Diocese does not single anyone out, picking and choosing to whom the policy applies or does not apply based on length of service in the church, age, reputation, gender, occupation, or any other factor. Rather, the policy is applied equally to every employee and volunteer with direct or indirect contact with children. If you are an adult employee or volunteer under Diocesan auspices, and you have direct or indirect contact with children, you must be in compliance with Safe Environment.
The Diocese has a responsibility to conduct due diligence and make every reasonable effort to keep its workplaces, parishes, and schools as safe as possible for everyone. The Diocese takes this responsibility very seriously. Having clergy, employees and volunteers complete the Safe Environment process is the primary way by which this effort is achieved.
The Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston is one of only a handful of dioceses in the United States served by VIRTUS that allows its employees and volunteers to take VIRTUS online, as well as live/in-person. Most other Dioceses in the United States require live/in-person training only. Because the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston encompasses the entire state of West Virginia, with many rural and remote locations, and we are faced with adverse weather conditions for a significant part of every year, the Diocese endeavors to make access to the training safe and convenient for its employees and volunteers. You may complete VIRTUS from the comfort of your own home computer (or from any device and any location whereby you have an internet connection) at a time of your choosing. Online VIRTUS awareness training takes a little over one hour to complete. The completion of the policy and background check forms takes a matter of minutes. If you are not comfortable taking VIRTUS online, there are live/in-person sessions offered upon request. The Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston makes it very easy and convenient to raise awareness and come into compliance with the process.
The Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston generally engages Mount St. Mary University and Seminary in Emmitsburg, MD; Theological College and St. John Paul II Seminary (both affiliated with The Catholic University of America) in Washington, DC; St. Vincent Seminary in Latrobe, PA; and the Pontifical North American College in Rome, Italy.
Prior to being admitted to seminary, candidates must undergo the following:
- An extensive background screening
- Psychological and physical evaluations
- Reference check (minimum of 5 references)
- Interviews with Diocesan leadership
- Then, if admitted to seminary, multi-year formation training