Safe Environment

Code of Ethical Standards

This Code of Ethics is written for and applies to all bishops, priests, deacons, administrators, staff, teachers, employees and volunteers in the Diocese of Sioux Falls who are referred to as “clergy and other church personnel” in this Code. This code is not to supersede canon or civil law.

1. Preamble

Those who minister within our parishes and institutions must always seek to uphold Christian values and conduct and to act properly at all times. Each in their various roles and capacities are leaders in some way in the Church founded by Jesus Christ. This Code of Ethics set forth general ethical standards for their lives and ministry. This is a general standard and guideline and is not intended to answer all of the ethical questions facing clergy and other church personnel today. In addition, it is intended that this code can be further refined through ongoing discussion toward improvement of these stated standards of practice. It will demand accountability from clergy and other church personnel according to the ethical standards of this code.

Responsibility for adherence to this Code of Ethical Standards rests individually with the clergy and other church personnel themselves. Willful disregard of this Code by clergy and other church personnel will be dealt with appropriately by that individual’s superior or representative. Remedial action may take one of several approaches from counseling to removal from a leadership position or ministry itself. The conduct of clergy and other church personnel in both public and private life can and should inspire and motivate people, but inappropriate conduct can scandalize and tear down the faith. With this awareness and responsibility, however, clergy and other church personnel striving to do good must know that God’s goodness and grace support them in their ministry.

2. General Principles

The ethical clergy and other church personnel are individuals who embrace the principles of: ecclesial commitment, integrity, respect for others, well-being, and competence.

  1. Ecclesial Commitment: Clergy and other church personnel embrace the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church. They know and continually study the Scriptures and magisterial teachings. They exhibit loyalty to the traditions of the Church, are attentive to the realities and needs of the present, and constantly preparing themselves for the challenges of the future. They nurture and build up the body of Christ in the Church and actively embrace its sacramental life. They work to build up both their local parish community and the larger diocesan and worldwide Church. They strive to show a special care and concern for the needs of the unborn, poor, disabled, and the oppressed of society. They work to develop an ecumenical spirit as well, working on common causes with other church bodies.
  2. Integrity: Clergy and other church personnel are expected to conduct themselves in an honest and open manner, free from deception or manipulation. In other words, they are to be men and women of integrity. Respect for Others: Clergy and other church personnel are to respect the rights, dignity and worth of each member of the Church community and all persons with whom they are in contact. They are to respect each individual as a creation of God regardless of their status in the community or the Church. They strive to be aware of cultural and human diversity.
  3. Human Well-Being: Clergy and other church personnel are to attend to their human, spiritual, intellectual, and pastoral well-being. In the area of their human well-being, they have a duty to be attuned to good physical, mental and emotional health. They should be aware of warning signs in moods or behavior which they can address early and seek help before a condition becomes detrimental to their own health or to others. Inappropriate use of alcohol or misuse of prescription drugs are examples in this area.
    1. Clergy and other church personnel should be supportive of one another, affirming one another yet holding one another accountable for physical and emotional well-being. They should determine healthy limits in their work, make use of vacation time, and enjoy opportunities for human growth both inside and outside their work environment.
    2. Clergy and other church personnel have a duty toward their own spiritual health and well-being. They are to maintain and nurture their prayer lives, addressing spiritual needs in order to remain focused and zealous in their faith. A regular meeting with a confessor or spiritual director is highly recommended. They should take advantage of opportunities for days of renewal, reflection, or retreat.
    3. Clergy and other church personnel are to attend to their ongoing intellectual development by reading and by participating in seminars and workshops relevant to their current ministry. They should make use of the time and funding provided for ongoing formation. They should likewise participate in a regular process of evaluation.
    4. Clergy and other church personnel are responsible for their own and others’ pastoral well-being. They are to nurture the life of the parish and diocesan community. They should work to know and always respect the people to whom they have been given in ministry. According to their office, charism, or ministry, they should celebrate the sacraments with decorum, and in fidelity to the official rites of the Roman Catholic Church. They should also know and follow the policies and procedures of the Diocese of Sioux Falls.
  4. Competence: Clergy and other church personnel are to maintain a high level of professional competence in their particular ministry. Training, education and experience contribute to this competence and credibility in their respective areas of expertise. As competence also means knowing one’s self limitations, clergy and other church personnel will know when to refer people and when not to attempt service in areas in which they lack competence.
3. Administration and Just Treatment of Employees & Volunteers
  1. Clergy and other church personnel shall treat all people with respect and dignity. They are to seek to work in ways that respect the different talents people bring to the Church. Meetings should be conducted with patience and courtesy toward the views of others, in an environment where it is safe for others to offer constructive criticism.
  2. Clergy and other church personnel exercise responsible stewardship of all parish resources. They must also ensure that in their areas of ministry, there is a clear accounting of all parish funds. There should never be any commingling of personal and church funds. Care should be taken so that even the appearance of inappropriate use of funds is avoided.
  3. Clergy and other church personnel are to ensure that systems are in place to protect both the Church and the individual from financial mismanagement. Diocesan policies are to be followed in regard to financial audits, annual reports and full disclosure. Canon Law and South Dakota Codified Law is to be followed in all cases as well as basic conformity to Catholic social teachings.
  4. Clergy and other church personnel cannot receive dual reimbursement for work which ordinarily falls under the scope of their pastoral assignment or ministry (e.g. a pastor’s salary plus the religious education director’s salary for taking care of that ministry, or a diocesan salary and independent consulting fees for work done within the scope and time of the original job description).
  5. Clergy and other church personnel understand that employment is at will, unless otherwise contractually agreed to, and the church employer retains the right to hire and fire in accord with Church teachings, Diocesan Personnel Policy and South Dakota Codified Law.
4. Respecting the Rights of Others

Conduct in helping relationships respects the rights of others and promotes their welfare.

  1. Clergy and other church personnel should not proceed beyond their competence or training in professional helping situations. They are to indicate early in any helping relationship the difference between professional counseling and informal helping situations. The nature and parameters of confidentiality and what might require reporting to legal authorities should also be explained. If the helping situation involves more than one person, that is, a family situation or group dynamics, the mutual respect and welfare of each is to be honored and full disclosure given to each participant.
  2. Clergy and other church personnel do not disclose information learned from helping sessions. However, clergy and other church personnel shall inform the person being helped that confidentiality is limited when there is clear and imminent danger to the person and/or to others. Necessary authorities or professionals are to be contacted by clergy and other church personnel when disclosure of abuse happens or danger is evident and this is to be done in accordance with South Dakota Codified Law and diocesan policy.
  3. Clergy and other church personnel’s first responsibility with individuals in their charge is spiritual assistance. In other areas of human or psychological or physical health needs, the usual recommended course is referral to more competent agencies. If the person is already under the care of another professional then clergy and other church personnel do not duplicate services in areas that are better left to the competency of another.
  4. Before moving to a new assignment, clergy and other church personnel should refer counselees under their professional care to another competency or bring closure in some other way to the counseling relationship.
  5. Clergy and other church personnel do not ordinarily begin a professional counseling relationship with someone with whom they have a preexisting relationship (i.e., employee, professional colleague).
  6. Clergy and other church personnel do not engage in sexual contact or intimacies with those in their charge and those with whom they work. They are always to be mindful that a wide variety of physical contact with those in their charge or with whom they work can be misconstrued and thus should be avoided. Any helping relationship should be conducted in a professional and appropriate setting (e.g. parish office) and at appropriate times.
  7. Clergy and all diocesan staff and the person(s) being helped should all understand that they are in a helping relationship and are cognizant of the importance and significance of appropriate boundaries.
  8. Clergy and other church personnel should keep and preserve indefinitely a personal calendar of appointments and helping sessions. They should hold themselves accountable in that activity and in their professional competence such as engaging in professional consultation, etc.
  9. When clergy and other church personnel’s independent judgment is impaired or they sense they are becoming too personally involved, then such clergy and other church personnel should advise the party/parties that they can no longer provide professional help and refer the person(s) to another competency.
5. Conduct with Minors
  1. Clergy and other church personnel must be aware of their vulnerability and that of any minor with whom they work or to whom they minister. A team approach to youth ministry activities should generally be chosen.
  2. Clergy and other church personnel should avoid establishing any exclusive relationship with a minor, and avoid any physical contact which might be misconstrued or misunderstood.
  3. Clergy and other church personnel shall not use or supply alcohol and/or illegal drugs when working with minors, nor show or provide any sexually explicit or inappropriate material to minors.
  4. Providing overnight accommodations for minors in rectories or other personal residences should be avoided unless the minors being housed are part of the clergy’s or diocesan staff member’s immediate family, or are part of an official Church program, in which case accompanying adults or guardian supervisors are also to be present.
  5. Clergy and other church personnel shall know, understand, and follow all diocesan policies and procedures concerning allegations of sexual misconduct involving minors and the developmentally disabled.
6. Sexual Conduct in Relation to the Wider Community
  1. Clergy and other church personnel shall not exploit persons for sexual purposes nor exploit the trust of the parish or assigned community for sexual gain or intimacy.
  2. Clergy and other church personnel are to be knowledgeable about what constitutes sexual abuse or exploitation of another and be familiar with the laws of the State of South Dakota on what constitutes abuse.
  3. Clergy and other church personnel who have a commitment to celibacy will honor chastity and appropriate conduct in that commitment as those who are married will witness chastity and fidelity to that commitment in their conduct.
  4. Allegations of sexual misconduct and abuse shall be taken seriously and reported to the Victim Response Coordinator for the diocese(1-800-700-7867) and the Bishop of the Diocese of Sioux Falls or the Chancellor (605-334-9861). The Diocesan Misconduct Review Board will be informed and the appropriate legal agencies will be apprised of allegations.
  5. Priests and Bishops will respect and hold sacred the seal of confession. They are responsible in all canonical regulations concerning the Sacrament of Penance.
7. Professional Behavior
  1. Clergy and other church personnel are to provide a professional work environment for their employees and volunteers which is free from physical, psychological, or verbal harassment. Harassment encompasses a broad range of physical and verbal behavior, which is not limited to the following: physical or mental abuse; racial insults or derogatory ethnic slurs or derogatory gender remarks; unwelcome sexual advances, touching, comments or jokes; display of offensive materials (this includes possession of offensive and/or materials in a Church facility); and requests for sexual favors used as a condition of employment or affecting any personnel decision such as hiring, promotion, or compensation.
  2. Harassment often results from the creation of a hostile, offensive, or intimidating work environment.
  3. Clergy and other church personnel are to ensure that there is a clear policy on reporting harassment for both employees and volunteers and are to follow established procedure for reporting any harassment. They are to ensure that no retaliation for bringing forward a claim of harassment will be tolerated.
8. Confidentiality
  1. Parishioners and other persons who come to clergy and other church personnel should feel they are entering a relationship marked by respect, trust, and confidentiality.
  2. Clergy and other church personnel are bound to safeguard the confidentiality of any notes, files, or computer records pertaining to professional contact with individuals. Normally counseling files are destroyed after seven years.
  3. If consultation with another professional becomes necessary, utmost care should be taken to do so only by using non-identifying information. When this is not possible, and after the appropriate disclosure and consent of the consulted, the other professional must be bound to the same degree of confidentiality as the clergy and other church personnel. If the other professional is not so bound, the disclosure should not be made.
  4. When consultation is necessary, the clergy and other church personnel must exercise great care to limit the content of the information to be shared. He or she must first determine what is the precise information that needs to be shared, with whom the information is to be shared, and why it is necessary to do so.
  5. The knowledge that arises from professional contact may be used in teaching, writing and preaching or other public presentations only when effective measures have been taken to absolutely safeguard individual identity and confidentiality.
  6. Except as provided in sections 2.2, 6.3-6.5, with respect to consultation, confidential information can be disclosed only with the written, informed consent of the individual. This must be done on a form that has been approved by Diocesan officials. In legal proceedings in which the clergy or other church personnel is a party and the allegations stem from a professional contact, the disclosure of confidential information gained in that contact is permitted only to that which is necessary and according to advice given by diocesan legal counsel, canonical and civil.
  7. When entering into a counseling or pastoral relationship with a minor, clergy and other church personnel should instruct the minor from the outset regarding exceptions to the ordinary rights to confidentiality. Threats of self-harm or harm to others, suicidal ideation, or matters which pose a grave risk for the minor’s welfare or the welfare of others would be examples requiring communication of information to a parent, legal guardian and/or to the civil authorities. The clergy and other church personnel must exercise great care and judgment in determining the appropriateness of this kind of disclosure in relation to the welfare of the minor being counseled. The confidentiality of the confessional is always a separate matter and remains untouched by these obligations.
9. Parish and Institutional Records
  1. Sacramental records are regarded as confidential. For valid canonical or sacramental requests or by request of the Bishop, or his representatives, or for parish statistical purposes, information can be shared from these records.
  2. Parish financial records are confidential except for the required annual report as designed for the parishes by the diocese of Sioux Falls. Legal or government requests for information can be honored after first consulting the Bishop or the Chancery. The records of individual contributions are to be treated in the same manner.
10. Conflict of Interest
Examples of potential conflicts of interest include but are not exclusive to the following: conducting private business or other dealings with the Church or any of its members; accepting substantial gifts for services or favors (anything over $250 needs to be reported to the Chancellor of the Diocese of Sioux Falls); acting with obvious partiality toward employees or Church members, or violating a confidence of another for personal gain.
11. Responsibility to Report Sexual Misconduct
  1. In cases where there are clear indications of illegal actions by clergy or other church personnel, notification shall be made to the proper Church authorities and the appropriate legal authorities will be contacted.
  2. In cases where there are clear indicators of unethical, but not illegal actions by clergy or other church personnel, notification should be made to the proper Church authorities.
  3. When there is ambiguity but clergy and other church personnel believe that one of his/her colleagues may have violated this Code of Ethical Standards, the matter should be brought to the attention of the individual. In addition, clergy and other church personnel shall take further action by reporting such event to the supervisor or next higher authority, or by referral to the Chancery Office.
  4. All accusations and concerns, either past or present, involving the sexual abuse of a minor, as defined by South Dakota law and the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, must be reported to the Victim Response Coordinator for the diocese (1-800-700-7867) and the Bishop of the Diocese of Sioux Falls, or Chancellor (605-334-9861). The Diocesan Misconduct Review Board will be informed and the Department of Criminal Investigation will be apprised of allegations.
  5. When clergy and other church personnel are uncertain whether what they suspect or know violates this Code of Ethical Standards, they should consult with the same agencies as mentioned in 9.4.