The Policies for Protection of Children and Young People is really a living document, according to Al Toczydlowski, who brings to the table his 30 years’ experience in the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office to the archdiocesan Office for Investigations, which he has headed for the past year and a half.
(See a related story on the new policies.)
The intake function was removed from the Victim Assistance Office and placed under his office because of a perceived ethical conflict.
“Although we care about victims the main goal of our office is to see that the community is protected,” he said.
If it has not already been done, the suspected case of child abuse is reported to Childline, the hotline of the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare. Toczydlowski’s office looks at the complaint to see if it is of a nature that could be considered criminal conduct, and if so it is immediately referred to the District Attorney’s Office in the county where the act or acts occurred. A copy of this notification is sent to the Archbishop and other appropriate archdiocesan officials.
Even if the conduct is deemed not criminally prosecutable but nevertheless a possible violation of the Standards of Ministerial Behavior and Boundaries, it is investigated and sent on to the Archdiocesan Review Board, which would make a final recommendation to the Archbishop.
Boundary violations can be any number of things including touching a child without a parent’s permission; a child sitting in a cleric’s lap; and buying presents for a child, something that could be considered grooming for future behavior.
However, in those cases where Toczydlowski’s office had passed the matter on to a district attorney’s office, his office does no investigation until the district attorney has made a determination.
This is done so that no action by the Archdiocese can be construed as interfering with a criminal investigation, and it explains why some priests who have temporarily been removed from ministry have not had a resolution in their case by the Archdiocese for many months.
“We will not proceed with our investigation until they tell us they are not proceeding, so that we won’t be in their way,” Toczydlowski said. “One of the criticisms of the grand jury was that the Archdiocese was getting ahead of law enforcement and interviewing witnesses before they did. We are avoiding that.”
One important thing victims should know, Toczydlowski said, is that although their particular case may not be brought to civil court, it may well be prosecutable in criminal court because of recent changes that greatly extended the criminal statute of limitations for child abuse.
Bottom line, are the revised standards working?
“I wouldn’t be here if I thought they weren’t,” Toczydlowski said.
Similar sentiments were offered by Arnold Gordon, a former first assistant district attorney in Philadelphia and current vice chair of the Archdiocesan Review Board (see a list of members).
“The revised Policies and Procedures constitute significant evidence of the commitment the Philadelphia Archdiocese to a zero-tolerance policy toward the sexual abuse of children,” he said in a statement.