Saint Vincent Seminary Policy: Protection of Children and Vulnerable Adults
This Policy is intended to insure a safe environment for children and vulnerable persons 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 persons; and to establish the procedures for reporting such improper behavior in compliance with the Pennsylvania Child Protective Services Law (Pa. C.S. ss 6301, 12/31/2014). 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 person.
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 regarding 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 Persons.
It is the policy of Saint Vincent Seminary that sexual misconduct, sexual abuse or exploitation of any type involving a child or a vulnerable person 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 accountability to the guidelines and procedures established and set forth in this policy to address all allegations of abuse.
1. Seminary Community: All clergy, administrators, faculty, staff, employees, volunteers, and seminary students (seminarians) living or working at Saint Vincent Seminary.
2. 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.
3. Minor Child: Anyone under the age of eighteen (18).
4. Vulnerable Person: Any person, in a state of infirmity, physical or mental deficiency, or deprivation of personal liberty that, in fact, even occasionally limits their ability to understand or want or otherwise resist the offense.
5. 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.
6. Report: A third party accusation.
7. Mandated Reporter: A person who is required by the Pa. Child Protective Services Law to make a report of suspected child abuse.
8. Sexual Abuse or Exploitation: (Legal Definition, Pa. C.S.ss 6303) Any of the following:
The employment, use, persuasion, inducement, enticement, or coercion of a child to engage in or assist another individual to engage in sexually explicit conduct, which includes, but is not limited to, the following:
a. Looking at the sexual or other intimate parts of a child or another individual for the purpose of arousing or gratifying sexual desire in any individual.
b. Participating in a sexually explicit conversation either in person, by telephone, by computer or by a computer-aided device for the purpose of sexual stimulation or gratification of any individual.
c. Actual or simulated sexual activity or nudity for the purpose of sexual stimulation or gratification of any individual.
This would include “vulnerable persons” subjected to sexual abuse or exploitation through intimidation and coercion by anyone in a position of authority.
9. Child Abuse: (Legal Definition, Pa. 23 C.S. ss 6303) The term “Child Abuse” shall mean intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly doing any of the following:
a. Causing bodily injury to a child through any recent act or failure to act.
b. Fabricating, feigning or intentionally exaggerating or inducing a medical symptom or disease which results in a potentially harmful medical evaluation or treatment to the child through any recent act.
c. Causing or substantially contributing to serious mental injury to a child through any act or a series of such acts or failures to act.
d. Causing sexual abuse or exploitation of a child through any act or failure to act.
e. Creating a reasonable likelihood of bodily injury to a child through any recent act or failure to act.
f. Creating a likelihood of sexual abuse or exploitation of a child through any recent act or failure to act.
g. Causing serious physical neglect of a child.
h. Engaging in any of the following recent acts:
(i) Kicking, biting, throwing, burning, stabbing, or cutting a child in a manner that endangers the child.
(ii) Unreasonably restraining or confining a child, based on consideration of the method, location or the duration of the restraint or confinement.
(iii) Forcefully shaking a child under one year of age.
(iv) Forcefully slapping or otherwise striking a child under one year of age.
(v) Interfering with the breathing of a child.
(vi) Causing a child to be present at a location while a violation of 18 Pa. C.S. 7508.2 (relating to operation of methamphetamine laboratory) is occurring, provided that the violation is being investigated by law enforcement.
(vii) Leaving a child unsupervised with an individual, other than a child’s parent, who the actor knows or reasonably should have known:
a. Is required to register as a Tier II or Tier III sexual offender under 42 Pa. C.S. Ch. 97 Section H (relating to registration of sexual offenders), where the victim of the sexual offense was under 18 years of age when the crime was committed.
b. Has been determined to be a sexually violent predator under 42 Pa. C.S. ss 9799.24 (relating to assessments) or any of its predecessors.
c. Has been determined to be a sexually violent delinquent child as defined in 42 Pa. C.S. ss 9799.12 (relating to definitions).
9. Causing the death of the child through any act or failure to act.
Restatement of culpability – Conduct that causes injury or harm to a child or creates a risk of injury or harm to a child shall not be considered child abuse if there is no evidence that the person acted intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly when causing the injury or harm to the child or creating a risk of injury or harm to the child.
Child abuse exclusions – The term “child abuse” does not include any conduct for which an exclusion is provided in section 6304 (relating to exclusions from child abuse)
Pa. C.S. ss 6303 (a) CPSL Law Definitions:
“Intentionally” – The term shall have the meaning as provided in 18 Pa. C.S. ss 302 (relating to general requirements of culpability).
“Knowingly” – The term shall have the same meaning as provided in 18 Pa. C.S. ss 302 (relating to general requirements of culpability).
“Recklessly” – The term shall have the same meaning as provided in 18 Pa. C.S. ss 302 (relating to the general requirements of culpability).
10. Child Pornography: Any representation of a minor, regardless of the means used, involved in explicit sexual activities, whether real or simulated, and any representation of sexual organs of minors for primarily sexual purposes. Child pornography is considered sexual abuse of a minor.
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 persons:
A. Prohibited Behaviors:
1. Using, possessing, or being under the influence of illegal drugs while in the presence of minors or vulnerable persons.
2. Using, possessing, or being under the influence of alcohol while supervising minors or vulnerable persons.
3. 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.
4. Providing or allowing minors or vulnerable persons to consume alcohol or illegal drugs.
5. Using profanity in the presence of minors or vulnerable persons.
6. Speaking to minors or vulnerable persons in a manner that could be construed by any observer as being harsh, threatening, intimidating, shaming, derogatory, demeaning, or humiliating.
7. Discussing sexual activities or topics with minors or vulnerable persons unless it is a specific assignment requirement, and the Seminarian is trained to discuss these matters and a supervising professor or pastor is present.
8. Engaging in any sexually oriented conversation with minors or vulnerable persons 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 persons 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. All the prohibitive behaviors concerning communications with minors or vulnerable persons (Nos. 6-9) apply equally to communications through electronic means, including but not limited to, social media, e-mail, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, texting, blogs, etc.
9. Acquiring, possessing, or distributing sexually oriented or otherwise morally inappropriate materials (magazines, cards, videos, films, books, computer downloads and printouts, clothing, etc.).
10. Sleeping in the same beds, sleeping bags, or confined spaces with minors and/or vulnerable persons.
11. Engaging in sexual contact with minors or vulnerable persons. For this Policy, sexual contact is defined as any touching of the person of a minor or vulnerable person for the purpose of sexually arousing or gratifying either person.
12. Transporting minors or vulnerable persons without the express permission of their parent or guardian and must be accompanied by another adult.
13. Unnecessary and /or inappropriate physical contact with minors or vulnerable persons while in a vehicle.
14. Having minors or vulnerable persons stay in their seminary rooms or in their rooms when assigned for parish duties.
15. Using physical discipline in any way for behavior training of minors or vulnerable persons. 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 persons.
B. Supervision of Programs or Activities that Involve Minors and/or Vulnerable Persons:
1. Seminarians who are assigned to work with minors and/or vulnerable persons on a regular basis must participate in training that addresses their role in protecting them.
2. Extracurricular Programs, activities, or Church functions that involve seminarians working with minors and/or vulnerable persons, should be supervised by at least two adults.
3. Seminarians serving in leadership roles shall be aware of all programs for minors and vulnerable persons that are sponsored by their parish, school, or other institution of assignment. At all times there shall be adequate adult supervision of these programs and activities.
C. 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 pre-theology or first year seminary students. Applicants who are Pennsylvania residents and Seminarians who perform public ministry are required to obtain a Pennsylvania State Police Criminal History Record Check, a Pennsylvania Department of Human Services: Child Abuse History Clearance and an FBI fingerprint based Criminal History Background Check in compliance with the Pennsylvania Child Protective Services Law (Pa. C.S. ss 6301, 12/31/2014). Mandated Reporter training is required for all students serving in any role of public ministry. Safe Environment Training and Child Abuse Awareness Training (VIRTUS) are offered, and attendance is required for all first-year seminary students, unless they have previously attended Virtus training. The Seminary Academic Dean and or the 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:
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 person, the Rector will exercise the following responsibilities:
1. 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 Rector will thereafter be responsible to ensure notification to the Pa. Department of Human Services 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.
2. 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.
3. 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 person by that seminarian.
B. 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.
C. Saint Vincent Seminary Community: DUTY TO REPORT
All Members of the Saint Vincent Seminary Community, under this Child Protection Policy, and under the mandates of the Pa. Child Protective Services Law are “MANDATED REPORTERS” of child abuse. As such, Members are required to personally and immediately report all instances of child abuse or suspected child abuse that comes to their attention immediately by calling the “Childline” child abuse hotline (800-932-0313) or by submission of an on-line report to www.compass.state.pa.us/cwis. In addition, Members must file a follow-up written report on DHS form (CY-47) and submit the report to the Child Protective Services Agency in the county where the suspected abuse occurred. A copy must also be provided to the Delegate for Child Protection of Saint Vincent Archabbey. In addition, the Rector of Saint Vincent Seminary, or his designee, should be notified of all instances of sexual abuse, sexual exploitation, or child abuse involving a minor child or vulnerable person whom they encounter 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 persons. 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.
D. 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 persons.
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 Persons.” All other religious members attending Saint Vincent Seminary shall be subject to the guidelines, policies and procedures of their sponsoring order or eparchy.
E. 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.
F. 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 Human Services to report instances of sexual misconduct or abuse.
As Rector of Saint Vincent Seminary, I will ensure this policy is reviewed annually, evaluated, and revised if necessary to conform to any relevant changes in the criminal and civil statutes of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and to meet the needs of the Seminary Community and all whom we serve.
This policy supersedes all other policies established for the protection of minor children and vulnerable persons at Saint Vincent Seminary at the time of promulgation; it is not intended to supersede canon law or civil law.
As Rector of Saint Vincent Seminary, I always retain the right to address matters pertaining to this policy brought to my attention, on a case-by-case basis, to respond to specific situations and issues which may require an alternate response, with due respect for canon law and the criminal and civil statutes of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the goals of this policy for child protection.
I approve and promulgate as policy for Saint Vincent Seminary, this 16th day of June 2021.
Very Reverend Edward M. Mazich, O.S.B.
Saint Vincent Seminary
Initiated: September 17, 2012
Revised: June 1, 2017
Revised: June 16, 2021