Sexual Misconduct Policy

Sexual misconduct by personnel of the Diocese of Sioux Falls is contrary to Christian principles and Catholic moral teaching. All personnel of the diocese must comply with applicable federal, state and local laws regarding incidents of actual or suspected sexual misconduct, and with the following policies. In addition, this policy endorses the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People created by the United States Bishops and approved by the Vatican. This policy is intended to establish procedure aimed at preventing sexual misconduct and the resulting harm to others and to provide guidance to the personnel of the dioceses on how to respond to allegations of sexual misconduct if any do occur.

1. Definitions

Sexual Misconduct: any sexual conduct of diocesan personnel which is unlawful as described by the laws of the State of South Dakota or contrary to the moral instructions, doctrines and canon law of the Catholic Church, and the definition of sexual abuse found in the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.

Vulnerable Persons: all children and all vulnerable adults as defined in South Dakota statutes: any person 18 years of age or older is considered “vulnerable” when that person, because of impairment of mental or physical function or emotional status, is unable or unlikely to report abuse or neglect without assistance.

Diocese or diocesan: includes the Diocese of Sioux Falls as a corporate entity, the Catholic Chancery Office Corporation, all of the parish corporations, all diocesan schools, Catholic Family Services, or other diocesan controlled corporations.

Diocesan Review Board: is the panel appointed by the bishop to advise him on past and present misconduct situations. The six members will have five-year terms and will represent a variety of relevant fields of expertise including law, counseling, and education. All misconduct related complaints will be reviewed by this board which will then recommend a course of action for both alleged victim and alleged offender.

Response Coordinator: the first person designated to receive allegations of misconduct and to promote the well-being of the person making the allegation or the victim. Initial contacts can also be made to the bishop, chancellor, vice chancellor. Information of all claims will be shared with the Review Board. All allegations of sexual abuse of a minor will be reported to the appropriate civil authority

2. Applicable Personnel

The following personnel must abide by this policy:

  1. all incardinated clerics (including all bishops, priests, permanent deacons and transitional deacons of the Dioceses)
  2. all religious priests, deacons, and brothers working in the diocese all those non-ordained persons to whom a participation in the exercise of the pastoral care of a parish is entrusted according to Canon 517, Section 2, of the Code of Canon Law
  3. all clerics of other jurisdictions who are working for the diocese. all women religious working for the diocese
  4. all personnel of Catholic schools of the diocese (administration, faculty and support staff)
  5. all religious education directors or coordinators and teachers in the parishes and schools of the diocese
  6. all youth ministers in the parishes, schools and institutions of the diocese
  7. all personnel of diocesan campus ministries
  8. all paid personnel in the offices of the diocese, parishes of the diocese, schools of the diocese, or other diocesan controlled corporations. All volunteers in the offices and institutions mentioned in 2.10 who have regular contact with vulnerable persons. (cf sec. 1.2)
  9. all other personnel as designated by the bishop of the diocese.
3. Policy Distribution
This policy is to be distributed to all personnel listed in Section 2 and to the following:

  1. all those who seek ordination as clerics of the diocese before being admitted to candidacy
  2. all clerics of other jurisdictions who seek assignment for work in the diocese

All personnel shall acknowledge their understanding and acceptance of the policy in CMG Connect.

4. State Authority
  1. This policy is intended to address violations of civil and criminal law. A violation of the civil and criminal law can subject the perpetrator to a prison sentence and/or a monetary fine. It can also be the basis for a civil suit of monetary damages.
  2. The law changes from time to time by enactment of amendments to statutes and judicial interpretations. It is not possible to set out all of the laws in this document, but assistance will be given to all personnel having questions or seeking knowledge concerning the law.
  3. The South Dakota Criminal and Civil Sexual Conduct Code defines the various types of conduct that violates this law. Three of the primary areas of concern are:
    1. Sexual abuse (as it applies to adult/child or vulnerable person interactions) is the subjection of a child or vulnerable adult by any person responsible for their care, to any sexual abuse, sexual molestation or sexual exploitation, which is a violation of the South Dakota Civil and Criminal Sexual Conduct Code. (SDCL 26-8A-2)
    2. Sexual exploitation (as it applies to any formal helper relationship) is any kind of sexual use of another person for one’s own profit or advantage.
    3. Sexual harassment includes unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, sexually motivated physical contact, or other verbal or physical conduct or communication of a sexual nature when:
      1. Submission to that conduct or communication is made a term or condition, either explicitly or implicitly, of obtaining employment, public accommodations or public services, education or housing; Submission to or rejection of that conduct or communication by an individual is used as a factor in decisions affecting that individual’s employment, public accommodations or public services, education, housing; or
      2. That conduct or communication has the purpose of effect of substantially interfering with an individual’s performance, employment, public accommodation or public services, education or housing, or creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive employment, or housing environment; and in the case of employment, the employer knows or should have known of the existence of the harassment and fails to take timely and appropriate action.
      3. The types of behaviors that constitute sexual harassment may include, but are not limited to: unwelcome sexual flirtations, advances or propositions; derogatory, vulgar, or graphic written or oral statements regarding one’s sexuality, gender or sexual experience; unnecessary touching, patting, pinching or attention to an individual’s body; physical assault; unwanted sexual compliments, innuendoes, suggestions or jokes; and the display of sexually suggestive pictures or objects.
5. Education

Education, alone, cannot shape mature attitudes and behavior, nor will it change inappropriate sexual behavior. Each adult must be responsible for his or her sexual growth and maturity. To support this responsibility the diocese will regularly arrange programs, which include knowledge or training applicable to these areas. The following personnel must attend designated educational programs concerning sexual misconduct issue such as methods of recognizing and preventing sexual misconduct involving children or others:

  1. All priests and deacons working in the diocese.
  2. All pastoral administrators/workers working in the diocese.
  3. All youth ministers working in the diocese.
  4. All school principals, educators, staff and directors of religious education.
  5. All volunteers who have regular contact with vulnerable persons.
  6. Other diocesan personnel as deemed necessary by the chancellor of the diocese
  7. Other personnel of the diocese are encouraged to attend such educational programs.

From time to time the diocese will offer education and training opportunities for parents regarding safe environments for children.

6. Criminal Background Check

Personnel listed in sections 2 and 3.1 will complete and submit an authorization to our third-party vendor, Selection.com, to conduct a criminal background check through CMG Connect or, if a Catholic school employee, will be fingerprinted through the SD DCI and FBI.

  1. The appropriate supervisor/head of the office or institution of the diocese shall receive completed background check information. Upon completion a copy will be retained in the central files of the diocese.
  2. Any further investigations of diocesan personnel must be approved and coordinated by the chancellor or his designee. With regard to personnel listed in 2.2 and 2.5, an agreement will be reached with their respective religious order/diocese which stipulates that the Diocese of Sioux Falls will be informed of any allegations of physical or sexual abuse, exploitation or harassment by such individuals that the religious order/diocese is or may become aware. On its part, the Diocese of Sioux Falls, in writing, will inform the superior of such personnel of any credible allegation of a sexual misconduct.
  3. Failure to disclose information regarding previous allegations of physical or sexual abuse, harassment or exploitation may be grounds for immediate termination.
7. Sexual Abuse and Exploitation
  1. Obligation to Report: any personnel of the Diocese who know or has reason to know of an incident of sexual misconduct by any personnel of the diocese shall comply with applicable reporting and other requirements of the state and local laws (unless to do so would violate priest/penitent relationship of the Sacrament of Reconciliation or the state statutes regarding confidential conversations with a spiritual advisor), and also shall report as follows:
    1. A verbal report of the incident shall be made immediately to the appropriate staff person as determined by each diocesan or parish entity and shall be followed as soon as reasonably possible by a written report with a copy to the victim response coordinator, the chancellor or his designee. Unless otherwise determined the appropriate staff person for Catholic schools is the principal; for parishes, the pastor; and for diocesan entities, the supervisor of the pastoral office where the alleged victim is employed. If the accusation is made against “the appropriate staff person”, and that person is not a priest, the verbal and written reports shall be made, on the parish level, to the chancellor or his designee. If the accusation is made against a cleric or an ecclesiastical office holder, the report shall be made to the victim response coordinator, the chancellor or his designee.
    2. The victim response coordinator, chancellor or his designee shall notify the bishop of the diocese, and diocesan attorney.
    3. After being reported to civil authorities, in credible situations, the alleged perpetrator will be immediately removed from any possible contact with children or vulnerable adult, pending the resolution of the charges and the outcome of the investigation. Such action will not imply guilt or innocence.
    4. All incidents relating to alleged child sexual abuse will be reported to the proper civil authorities.
  2. Investigation of Reported Incidents: each reported incident will be investigated as soon as reasonably possible. Each incident will also be reviewed by the Diocesan Review Board. Care will be taken not to interfere with any criminal investigation. The investigation will be done with a high level of Christian care, concern and confidentiality for the alleged victim, the family of the alleged victim, the person reporting the incident, and the alleged perpetrator. Unless the bishop shall indicate otherwise, the chancellor or his designee shall conduct the investigation. The investigator should consult with and seek the advice of the diocesan attorney, not only when undertaking the investigation, but also during the investigation, as deemed appropriate.
    1. If requested, an advocate may be appointed to assist the alleged perpetrator, or counsel of his/her own choosing may represent the alleged perpetrator. In the case of a priest or ecclesiastical office holder, the advocate, if possible, should be one with canonical expertise. In any case, any expense involved is the responsibility of the alleged perpetrator.
    2. For accusations against all personnel, the alleged perpetrator should be interviewed. The alleged perpetrator should be advised of the provision of 7.2.1 and should be informed of his/her rights, and that anything said may be used against the alleged perpetrator in a criminal proceeding or in a civil lawsuit. The alleged perpetrator should be presented with a specific listing of allegations. The alleged perpetrator should be given an opportunity to ask any clarifying questions and should then be asked to respond to the allegations. The investigator should also review the alleged perpetrators’ personnel file and should inquire of the alleged perpetrator whether there have been any other incidents of sexual misconduct, which may have gone unreported. The investigative process may include an evaluation conducted by a professional counselor or therapist.
    3. The investigation will also ordinarily include a meeting with and an interview of complainant and/or victim, and interviews with such persons identified as witnesses or persons likely to possess information relevant to the investigation, as the investigator thinks necessary for purposes of the investigation.
    4. When accusations of sexual misconduct are made against personnel of the diocese, contact by the appropriate diocesan staff with the alleged victim and family should, if appropriate, be promptly initiated. The bishop is always available to meet with and address the needs of victims. Contact should be made by priestly and other counselors chosen by the bishop for the purpose of offering whatever concern or solace may be needed, with no comment as to the truth of any accusation. Medical, psychological and spiritual assistance will be offered in the spirit of Christian justice and charity. This may include individual counseling, spiritual direction and support groups.
    5. Upon completion of the investigation, a report will be provided to the bishop, outlining the findings of the investigation. The report will be either oral or written as determined by the chancellor or his designee. The standard of measure will be the Code of Ethical Behavior.
    6. If the alleged claim is substantiated, or if it appears it can be substantiated, the alleged perpetrator, in accordance with canonical and other considerations, will be relieved of all responsibilities in the diocese, parish, office or institution, and be placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of the internal and any outside investigation. Such leave will be with or without pay or benefits as the bishop or his designee may decide.
    7. The bishop or his designee will keep appropriate records of each incident reported and of the investigation and the results thereof. All records are to be reviewed by the diocesan attorney.
    8. Notification of the incident shall be given to insurers in accordance with the terms of applicable insurance policies. The diocesan attorney should be consulted regarding such notification.
    9. Taking into account first the needs and desires of the victim, communications concerning issues of sexual abuse will be as open as possible.
    10. When the investigation shows the allegations are unfounded, all possible steps will be taken to restore the good name of the person accused.
  3. Action Where Guilt Determined: any personnel listed in section 2 who admits to, does not contest, or is found guilty of an incident of sexual misconduct involving a child or minor shall be immediately terminated from employment and any position of responsibility with the diocese. There will be no possibility of future employment with the diocese, its parishes, schools or other institutions. For clergy, further penal sanctions, including but not limited to, dismissal from the clerical state may be imposed.
    1. If an accusation is confirmed and a cleric is permanently removed from ministry, the diocese will assist the offender in receiving a psychological evaluation and sex offender treatment. The diocese will attempt to assist the offender with a supervised living situation.
    2. A member of the diocesan clergy may be required to undergo treatment. Cost of such treatment and release of information from the treatment center will be negotiated between the cleric and the diocese.
    3. When the member of the diocesan clergy has completed treatment, he may be required to take part in an appropriate supervised after-care program approved by the bishop, having received the recommendations of the professional treatment center.
    4. Faith communities affected by an incident of misconduct will receive appropriate outreach from the diocese.
8. Sexual Harassment
  1. Obligation to Report: Any personnel of the Diocese who knows or has reason to know of an incident of sexual harassment by any personnel of the diocese shall comply with any applicable reporting or to her requirements of state and local laws (unless to do so would violate priest/penitent relationship of the Sacrament of Reconciliation), and shall also report as follows:
    1. A verbal report of the incident shall be made immediately to the appropriate staff person as determined by each diocesan or parish entity and shall be followed as soon as reasonably possible by a written report. In the case when an accusation is made against “the appropriate staff person”, if not a priest, the verbal and written reports shall be made, on the parish level, to the canonical pastor, and on the diocesan level, to the chancellor or his designee. In the case when an accusation is made against a cleric or an ecclesiastical office holder, the report shall be made to the chancellor or his designee.
    2. A copy of the written report shall be sent to the chancellor or his designee and the diocesan attorney. The chancellor or his designee shall in all such cases, notify the bishop of the diocese.
    3. Reasonable care will be taken to separate the complainant or victim and the alleged perpetrator until the investigation is completed.
  2. Investigation of Reported Incidents: each reported incident shall be investigated as soon as reasonable possible by the appropriate staff person as determined by each diocesan or parish entity. Unless otherwise determined, the appropriate staff person for Catholic schools is the principal; for parishes, the pastor; and for diocesan entities, the supervisor of the pastoral office where the alleged victim is employed. In the case when an accusation is made against a cleric or an ecclesiastical office holder, the chancellor or his designee shall conduct the investigation. In the case when an accusation is made against “the appropriate staff person”, if not a priest, the investigation will be conducted on the parish level by the canonical pastor, and on the diocesan level by the chancellor or his designee. Each incident will be investigated with care taken not to interfere with any criminal investigation and with a high level of Christian care, concern and confidentiality for the alleged victim, the person reporting the incident, and the alleged perpetrator. All allegations will also be reviewed by the Diocesan Review Board.
    1. An advocate may be appointed to assist the alleged perpetrator, or the alleged perpetrator may be represented by counsel of his/her own choosing. In the case of a priest of ecclesiastical office holder, the advocate, if possible should be one with canonical expertise. In any case, any expense involved is the responsibility of the alleged perpetrator.
    2. For accusations against all personnel, the alleged perpetrator should be interviewed. The alleged perpetrator should be advised of the provision of 8.2.1 and should be informed that anything said may be used against the alleged perpetrator in a criminal proceeding or in a civil lawsuit. The alleged perpetrator should be presented with a specific listing of allegations. The alleged perpetrator should be given an opportunity to ask any clarifying questions and should then be asked to respond to the allegations. The investigator should also review the alleged perpetrator’s personnel file and should inquire of the alleged perpetrator and of others when appropriate, whether there have been any other incidents of sexual harassment, which may have gone unreported.
    3. The investigation will also ordinarily include a meeting with and interview of complainant and/or victim, and interviews with such persons identified as witnesses or persons likely to possess information relevant to the investigation, as the investigator thinks necessary for purposes of the investigation.
    4. Appropriate records, including reports of misconduct, results of investigations, final determination and disposition, shall be made by the investigator for each investigation and these reports shall be filed in the alleged perpetrator’s personnel file.
    5. In any case, when it appears that criminal or civil action may be taken by one or more of the parties involved notification of the incident shall be given to insurers in accordance with the terms of applicable insurance policies. The diocesan attorney should be consulted regarding such notification.
  3. Action Where Guilt Determined, Non-Clergy: if the alleged claim is substantiated, the following action shall be taken:
    1. If the incident is of a significantly offensive nature, in the judgment of the investigator or bishop, or if repeated offenses by this same perpetrator have been documented, the procedure detailed in Section 7.3 shall be followed.
    2. In all other cases, the investigator shall inform the perpetrator in writing, of the result of the investigation. Moreover, the investigator shall inform the perpetrator that another incident can result in termination of employment, and that the report regarding the incident shall be placed in the individual’s personnel file. Psychological or professional counseling may be required for the perpetrator.
  4. Action Where Guilt Determined, Clergy: if the alleged claim is substantiated, a report outlining the findings on the investigation will be sent to the bishop for determination. If deemed appropriate by the bishop, the procedures outlined in Section 7.3, may be followed. If the bishop determines that circumstances do not warrant the procedures outlined in Section 7.3, he may so advise the investigator, and instruct the investigator to proceed as outlined in Section 8.3.2.
9. Services Provided to Victims

The Diocese of Sioux Falls will provide counseling and spiritual guidance (direction, retreats, etc) for victims of clergy sexual abuse. As needed, these services will extend to members of victims immediate family.

  • Response coordinators will be appropriately trained to handle their responsibilities.
  • The diocese will make available support groups as needed for victims of sexual abuse.
  • Counseling and support group availability extends to victims who were sexually abused by former or deceased clergy.
  • The diocese will continue to solicit those who have been harmed by abuse through periodic notices in diocesan communication venues.
  • When the claim involves another diocese, religious community, or some other institution (whether in South Dakota or not), the diocese will assist the victim in contacting and working with the other institution.
10. False Accusations and Unsubstantiated Claims

There is always the possibility of false accusations or unsubstantiated claims made for whatever reasons. It is important for all diocesan personnel to know that both civil law and canon law (cc.1390-1391) provide penalties for the crime of falsehood in which individuals become victims of false denunciation and calumny.

11. Confidentiality

All information related to an incident in which a complaint is made of sexual abuse, physical abuse, sexual exploitation or sexual harassment must be assembled and retained in a written form in a manner which best protects the needs and legitimate requests or desires of the victim. The diocese will not enter into confidentiality agreements in settlement situations unless requested by the victim.

12. Acts of Retaliation

The Diocese of Sioux Falls will not condone retaliatory acts of any nature against persons making reports and providing information in implementing these policies. Such retaliatory acts may be grounds for immediate termination.