At the most recent meeting of the diocesan sexual-abuse Task Force, held Aug. 1 at Siena College, the four new Task Force committees reported on their most recent work and set goals and objectives for the months ahead. 

The Policy & Procedures Committee presented a draft of a new Code of Conduct, which will now go into final review before it is distributed to employees, volunteers and clergy throughout the Diocese and its parishes and schools. Focus groups are currently providing feedback so final revisions can be made. In addition, the diocesan social media policy is being revised. Plans to get the word out about the revised code include utilizing leadership gatherings in the fall and addressing vicariate meetings. The revision was classified as “more of an enhancement than an overhaul,” providing clarity on existing policy so that it has a broader application in the future. 

The Survivors-First Committee is reviewing the current diocesan Victims Assistance Coordinator position to explore if there is a way to make it “more relational” and less like a mediator position. This committee is already providing outreach to survivors through a pastoral counselor in the Diocese. Eventually there will be a need to have more than one person providing such counseling, so plans are under way for training and preparing others. 

The Survivors-First Committee also hopes to bring together a group of survivors from the Diocese to help guide outreach efforts. This could include listening sessions, prayer services for survivors, as have been held in other dioceses, and retreats, similar to Rachel’s Vineyard, but focused on abuse survivors.  

The Financial Accountability Committee is reviewing past financial policies and planning for the Diocese’s financial future in light of potential settlements and their impact on services and ministries of the Pastoral Center. With the opening of the “look-back” window in the Child Victims Act on Aug. 14, the committee stressed the importance of reminding parishioners that, at this point, none of the funds from the Bishop’s Appeal have been used to settle any claims. The committee will be reviewing insurance policies that covered parishes historically and funds that will be available for settlements.  

The Pastoral Care Committee reported that Spirit Fire and a pastoral counselor from within the Diocese will be visiting individual parishes in late August into October to assess each parish’s unique needs and work with pastors to help offer opportunities to address concerns. 

Progress Monitoring: Some of the general goals and objectives outlined by committees at the meeting included establishing a protocol for listening sessions in parishes and vicariates, providing support for parishes that might be in crisis, and planning for the Diocese’s financial future in light of potential settlements. 

The Task Force will meet again in early September.