Frequently Asked QuestionsHome > Marking the 20th Anniversary of the Dallas Charter > Frequently Asked Questions
1. What is the Dallas Charter?
The Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People is a comprehensive set of procedures originally established in June 2002 by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) for addressing allegations of sexual abuse of minors and vulnerable adults by Catholic clergy. The Charter also includes guidelines for reconciliation, healing, accountability, and prevention of future acts of abuse. It was revised in 2005, 2011, and 2018. The document is more commonly known as the “Dallas Charter” because it was drafted in Dallas during the annual spring meeting of U.S. bishops.
2. Why is the Archdiocese of Detroit releasing this report now?
The Archdiocese of Detroit released this report on the local implementation and impact of the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People in recognition of the upcoming 20th anniversary of the document originally adopted in June 2002.
3. How did the Dallas Charter change the church’s response to abuse allegations and approach to safety?
For the first time, the Dallas Charter established uniform, “zero tolerance” procedures for all (arch)dioceses in the United States regarding the handling of sex-abuse allegations against clergy, lay teachers in Catholic schools, parish staff members, coaches, and other people who represent the Church to young people. In addition, the Charter required all U.S. dioceses to put in place practices that would prevent abuse from occurring in the first place. The Charter is reviewed at least every seven years to ensure its practices are of the highest standards.
4. How has the Archdiocese of Detroit implemented the Dallas Charter?
The Archdiocese of Detroit’s implementation of the Dallas Charter can be classified into several categories: Healing and reconciliation; swift, effective response to abuse allegations; accountability, and protection and prevention.
Healing and reconciliation
There is pastoral outreach to survivors and their families, if requested by the survivor.
A victim assistance coordinator assists with the pastoral care of survivors. The Archdiocese of Detroit’s victim assistance coordinator, Tony Latarski, can be reached 24/7 at (866) 343-8055, (313) 237-6060, or email@example.com.
Allegations of abuse are considered by a Review Board made up mostly of lay people who are not employed by the diocese. The Archdiocese of Detroit’s Review Board members are listed online at protect.aod.org/review-board. An earlier version of the Review Board was established in 1988, when the archdiocese became one of the first dioceses to implement a policy on the sexual abuse of minors by clergy.
The Archdiocese of Detroit does not engage in secret settlements. Any such agreement established before 2002 is no longer legally binding, meaning these individuals are free to publicly discuss their cases. The Archdiocese continues to respect the privacy of these individuals and does not comment publicly on individual settlements, pre- or post-2002.
Swift, effective response to abuse allegations
In the spring of 2002, the Archdiocese of Detroit signed voluntary agreements with the prosecutors from all six counties within its boundaries to share case files of priests who had been accused of sexual misconduct. Since then, every complaint received by the Archdiocese is turned over to civil authorities, regardless of its source or when the alleged abuse took place. In addition, the Archdiocese has shared all allegations with the Attorney General’s Office since the launch of that office’s investigation in the fall of 2018.
There is zero tolerance of abuse allegations in ministry. No priest or deacon with a credible complaint against him is allowed to continue in public ministry in the Archdiocese of Detroit during the time his case is under review by the Church or civil authorities. A complaint is considered “credible” if it has a “semblance of truth,” meaning it appears to be or could possibly be true. The archdiocese remains in contact with restricted priests and deacons to verify compliance with the strict limitations on their public ministry. Priests who are permanently removed from ministry, after being found guilty by the Holy See, are monitored by a retired parole officer. The Archdiocese of Detroit provides a list online of clergy credibly accused of abuse.
The Archdiocese of Detroit practices transparency in communicating with the public and media about the sexual abuse by clergy of minors and vulnerable adults.
The Archdiocese of Detroit is audited every year by an independent firm to ensure compliance with the requirements of the Dallas Charter. Records of the archdiocese’s compliance are available online.
The above two resources are posted publicly on protect.aod.org, a website launched by the Archdiocese of Detroit in August 2018, as part of an effort to consolidate and share ongoing efforts to respond appropriately to abuse allegations and prevent future incidents from occurring in our communities. The website also includes a letter from Archbishop Vigneron, information about reporting abuse, a detailed letter about the processing of sexual abuse complaints in the archdiocese, our list of credibly accused clergy, an extensive set of frequently asked questions, and more.
Protection and Prevention
The Archdiocese of Detroit requires “safe environment” training for all priests, deacons, staff, and volunteers who work with children. Since 2003, more than 118,000 adults in our parishes, schools, and other ministries have been taught how to identify and report situations that could leave a child or other individual vulnerable to the methods of a sexual offender. More information about the training, called Protecting God’s Children, is available here and here.
Since 2003, tens-of-thousands of children (65,000 per year) in the Archdiocese of Detroit have been trained through similar, age-appropriate “safe environment” programs for grade, middle, high school, and religious education students.
Since 2002, the Archdiocese of Detroit has required and performed 413,461 criminal background checks on all priests, deacons, staff, and volunteers who work with children.
In partnership with Sacred Heart Major Seminary, the Archdiocese of Detroit prioritizes rigorous screening and psychological evaluations for those seeking to be ordained as clergy.
5. How has the Dallas Charter helped the Archdiocese of Detroit increase its commitment to reconciliation, healing, accountability, and abuse prevention?
The Archdiocese has for many years encouraged the public to report abuse directly to law enforcement. When we learn of an allegation of sexual abuse of minors or vulnerable adults, we immediately notify authorities in the appropriate county, in accordance with the agreements we have had in place with them since 2002. As part of these voluntary agreements, we also shared past case files involving clergy misconduct and committed to turning over all new allegations regardless of when the alleged abuse occurred.
In addition to our work with law enforcement, the Archdiocese is committed to zero tolerance of abuse allegations in ministry. This means that no priest or deacon with a credible complaint against him is allowed to continue in public ministry in the Archdiocese of Detroit during the time his case is under review by the Church or civil authorities. (A complaint is considered “credible” if it has a “semblance of truth,” meaning it appears to be or could possibly be true.)
We also acknowledge that the best response to abuse is to prevent it from occurring in the first place. This is why we require criminal background checks and “safe environment” training for all priests, deacons, staff, and volunteers who work with children. Since 2002, the Archdiocese of Detroit has performed 413,461 criminal background checks on all priests, deacons, staff, and volunteers who work with children. Since 2003, shortly after the Dallas Charter was adopted, more than 118,000 adults and 65,00 children per year in our parishes, schools, and other ministries have been taught how to identify and report situations that could leave a child or other individual vulnerable to the methods of a sexual offender. These efforts have filled our communities with people who have been screened appropriately and equipped to protect children in their care.
These efforts have worked. While public awareness has contributed to an increase in reports in recent years, the vast majority of reports we receive concern abuse that occurred prior to 2002. In total, there have been 81 clerics credibly accused of abuse in the Archdiocese of Detroit since 1950, representing roughly 2.12 percent of all clergy (3,826 priests and deacons, including those from religious orders) who have served in the Archdiocese of Detroit during the same time.* Two of those individuals were linked to abuse that occurred in the last twenty years, both in the early 2000s.
*Corrected in October 2022
6. How did Vos estis lux mundi build upon the Dallas Charter’s transformation of the Church’s response to abuse allegations and approach to safety?
While the Dallas Charter was instrumental in opening an era of reconciliation, healing, accountability, and prevention of future acts of abuse by clergy and other Church employees, it did not address misconduct by bishops and religious superiors. In May of 2019, Pope Francis promulgated Vos estis lux mundi (“You are the light of the world”), establishing universal norms to ensure bishops and religious superiors are held accountable for their actions or inactions in response to allegations in their dioceses or religious communities.
Among other norms, the Vos estis places upon the metropolitan archbishops the responsibility for receiving and assessing reports involving bishops that pertain to allegations of sexual abuse and related misconduct. If the metropolitan himself is the accused, the report is handled by the bishop of the suffragan diocese with the greatest seniority of appointment. In Michigan, Archbishop Vigneron is the metropolitan archbishop and Bishop Boyea of the Diocese of Lansing has the greatest seniority of appointment among the bishops of the other (suffragan) dioceses in the state.
One month after the Holy Father’s directive, the bishops of the United States introduced the Catholic Bishop Abuse Reporting Service (CBAR), a service operated by Convercent Inc., an independent, third-party entity that provides intake services to private institutions for reports of sensitive topics such as sexual harassment through a secure, confidential, and professional platform. Individuals may go to ReportBishopAbuse.org to make a report or call (800) 276-1562.
7. Where can I find out more about how the Archdiocese of Detroit’s response to abuse and approach to prevention?
The Archdiocese of Detroit has a website dedicated to consolidating and sharing its ongoing efforts to respond appropriately to abuse allegations and prevent future incidents from ever occurring in our communities. The website, called protect.aod.org, opens with a letter from Archbishop Vigneron and includes information about reporting abuse, an in-depth letter about the processing of sexual abuse complaints in the archdiocese, our list of credibly accused clergy, and an extensive set of frequently asked questions, and more.
In addition, all materials related to the Archdiocese’s report on the 20th Anniversary of the Dallas Charter are available at www.aod.org/dallascharter.
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) also offers resources on abuse prevention and response, including their 2020 Annual Report on all U.S. dioceses, its Annual Report archives, and its homepage on the Protection of Children & Young People.
Individuals with knowledge of sexual abuse by clergy or other Church representatives are urged to contact local law enforcement and/or the Michigan Attorney General’s Office at (844) 324-3374 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Individuals also may contact the Archdiocese of Detroit by visiting protect.aod.org or by calling the 24/7 victim assistance line at (866) 343-8055 or by emailing email@example.com. There are no time limits or restrictions on individuals wishing to report abuse.
For more information on the Archdiocese of Detroit’s response to abuse and commitment to preventing future incidents from occurring in our communities, please visit protect.aod.org.