Bishop Scharfenberger Issues Statement as Child Victims Act Goes Into Effect
All of us in the Diocese of Albany — and in the Church worldwide — will face challenges in the months ahead and may even become dispirited as revelations of sexual abuse come forward in light of the Child Victims Act. Although we cannot know the extent of what is before us, we do know that we will be a different Church when this process is over, but we will be a better Church because of it. The truth is the only way through this, and the truth will set us free. We admire the bravery of those who have come forward to share their stories of betrayal and pain to help other survivors of childhood sexual abuse.
Experts tell us that the publicity that will surround the opening of the window for the Child Victims Act could trigger re-traumatization for those who have been sexually abused, and so our focus will be on accompanying survivors and supporting them as they journey toward healing, whether they choose the path of litigation or not. In the coming weeks and months, the Diocese of Albany plans to redouble our existing efforts to bring about reconciliation with survivors. We are a wounded family, and we cannot heal unless and until we care for and walk with those among us who have suffered in silence for so long. Today we take the next steps on this long and necessary path.
The Child Victims Act – What You Need to Know
The Child Victims Act (CVA), which will take effect in New York State on Wednesday, Aug. 14, lifts the statute of limitations that precluded victims of child sexual abuse from bringing allegations before the courts. This “window,” as it is known, will be open for one year.
In addition, this legislation:
- Increases the amount of time during which perpetrators of sexual abuse crimes may be held criminally accountable
- Allows victims of these crimes to commence a civil lawsuit at any time before they reach 55 years of age
- Eliminates the need to file a notice of claim for sexual offenses committed against a minor
Our first concern, as always, is for survivors, who have borne their scars for many decades, often in silence. We stand ready to accompany them on their journey toward healing, to support them and to assist them in any way we can.
While financial challenges resulting from expected lawsuits against the Diocese of Albany will test our ability to carry out our ministries, we remain committed to continuing to fulfill our mission to evangelize, educate, strengthen our faith communities, develop vocational and mission awareness, and to care for the poorest and most vulnerable among us.
While the overwhelming majority of abuse cases occurred between the 1960s to the early 1980s, Bishop Scharfenberger has pledged to be ever vigilant in protecting young people today, and in working toward healing for those who have suffered. His newly established Task Force is charged with assisting him in their ministry.
For nearly 20 years, the diocese has been adhering to the U.S. Bishops’ Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, which includes a zero-tolerance policy. This means that any priest, deacon, religious, lay employee or volunteer who is found to have abused a single child or vulnerable adult may never again serve in any ministry in the Catholic Church. As a result, today, there is not a single person in ministry in our diocese who has been credibly accused of abusing a child.
Since 2002, the Diocese of Albany has conducted 37,674 background checks on staff and volunteers and 36,232 individuals have completed Virtus (safe environment training) at least once.
Bishop Scharfenberger has apologized to all survivors of clergy abuse in our Diocese and, in November 2015, posted the names of all clergy offenders on the diocesan web site, www.rcda.org/offenders.
Protecting Children Policies and Guidelines
The Office of Safe Environment oversees compliance with the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, by administering the Safe Environment awareness training (VIRTUS) and background screening (TruView) programs for all diocesan and parish staff as well as volunteers who work with children.
VIRTUS Program and Training
The Diocese of Albany is committed to providing a “safe environment” for everyone, especially children. We believe in education that raises awareness of sexual abuse that identifies the signs of sexual abuse, that explains how to control access to our children and vulnerable adults and that encourages responsible reporting of abuse. This information is critical as we go forward into the future. We have chosen the Virtus program to achieve these goals. https://www.rcda.org/offices/safe-environment/virtus-program-and-training
Diocesan Review Board
The Diocesan Sexual Misconduct Review Board functions as a confidential consultative body to the bishop in discharging his responsibilities.
Bishop’s Task Force
Established in April 2019, the sex-abuse Task Force established by Bishop Edward B. Scharfenberger in April hed its second meeting June 25 at Siena College, establishing four committees to address the most immediate and pressing concerns related to abuse and survivors.