This month the Archdiocese produced a new document detailing steps taken to strengthen assistance to victims of clergy sexual abuse, protect children and ensure the integrity of the priesthood. It is the third such document this spring and like the others, it was made available for parishes to insert in their weekly church bulletins.

The new document describes steps taken to assist victims of abuse in three time periods: before the 2005 Philadelphia grand jury report on clergy sexual abuse in the Archdiocese; following the report’s release; and after the new grand jury report last February. {{more}}

The abuse crisis exploded in the United States in 2002. As a response, the Catholic bishops of the United States developed the “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.” Among its many guidelines for local dioceses was appropriate outreach to victims of clergy sexual abuse and the development of local procedures to deal with an allegation of sexual abuse of a minor.

The Archdiocese followed through with these initiatives then went a step further. It listed on its web site,, the status and detailed information regarding all archdiocesan clergymen with a substantiated allegation of abuse. Even Church critics applauded the transparency of the action, which was virtually unprecedented among dioceses in the country.

After the 2005 Philadelphia grand jury report, the Archdiocese hired Mary Achilles as its first victims advocate. Soon after, victims received simplified and expanded services for their needs. Safe-environment training became mandatory for all Church personnel working with young people. And victims of clergy sexual abuse brought their personal stories to the assembled priests of the Archdiocese in “Witness to the Sorrow,” a live broadcast event.

After the second grand jury report last February, Achilles was rehired by the Archdiocese. In the months since, actions have included a renewed expansion of the Victim Assistance Program and the separation of victims’ services from the investigation of allegations of sexual abuse by Church personnel.

At each of these periods the Archdiocese recognized the need to continually reevaluate and improve its processes and procedures. The steps taken to date are not the last initiatives toward the goal of renewing the Church’s commitment to victim assistance, child protection and priestly integrity. In fact this newspaper will present the story of the Office for Child and Youth Protection’s new directory, Leslie Davila, in next week’s issue.

And visitors to or readers of their parish bulletin will receive future updates to the series of inserts that help to shed light, rather than raw emotions, on this most serious issue.