TYLER – Bishop Joseph E. Strickland has promulgated a revised policy for Ethics and Integrity for Church Personnel in the Diocese of Tyler, an updated set of Guidelines for the Conduct of Church Personnel, and a new version of the recertification training.
This updating of policy reaffirms “the commitment of the Diocese of Tyler to consistently act in a way that protects children, minors and adults who have any dealings with the Church or any Catholic agencies operating in our diocese,” Bishop Strickland said in his decree promulgating the Guidelines for the Conduct of Church Personnel.
“These updated guidelines will serve to direct Church personnel and the diocese in living out the commitment to Ethics and Integrity as outlined in the Policy on Conduct of Church Personnel and as agreed to in the Code of Ethics and Integrity.”
The new recertification program began July 16 and will be in place for three years.
All Church and Catholic school employees, clergy and religious, and those volunteers who have contact with children or vulnerable adults are required by diocesan policy to take the training, said Father Gavin Vaverek, pastor of St. Patrick Parish in Lufkin and promoter of justice for the diocese.
In a decree promulgating Recertification 4.0, Bishop Strickland said he is asking all diocesan employees, priests, deacons, and those in formation for Holy Orders to complete recertification by Sept. 15.
He also has granted a grace period through Sept. 15 to “make reasonable accommodation to all whose ACS will lapse from June 30 to Aug. 30.”
The grace period “will give a reasonable period for people to attend a recertification session and again commit to the Code of Ethics and have a renewed background check completed,” Bishop Strickland wrote.
As in the past, recertification will require participation in the new 90-minute training conducted by an approved diocesan trainer, re-commitment to the Code of Ethics, a new criminal background check, and payment of a $10 fee to cover the cost of the background check.
Recertification 4.0 is the fourth iteration of the certification and acceptance for service in the Diocese of Tyler. The Ethics and Integrity program was launched in February, 2003, in response to the sexual abuse crisis that rocked the Church in 2002 and the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People in 2002 by the U.S. bishops.
Since its promulgation in 2003 by Bishop Álvaro Corrada, SJ, the Ethics and Integrity program has been tweaked a bit, but remains fundamentally unchanged.
“This is due, in large part, to the care with which the program was initially designed,” Father Vaverek said. “From the beginning, the program was seen not just as a response to the crisis of 2002, but as this diocese’s determination to conduct itself according to the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, which obligates us all to the recognition and respect of the dignity and sacredness of every human person as a child of God.”
That determination was evidenced by the scope of the program, which pertains not only to the treatment of children, but of all persons who engage the Church in any way.
“From the beginning, we’ve gone beyond what the Charter for Protection of Children and Young People set out,” Father Vaverek said. “As designed by the Ethics and Integrity team and promulgated by Bishop Corrada, this was a statement of the Diocese of Tyler’s commitment to living out the Gospel in regard to all people.”
Over times, however, the program has required updating to reflect changes especially in technology and the rise of social media.
Recertification 4.0 has added information on boundary violations, strengthened guidelines on online and electronic contact with minors, updated the social media policy, and added an explicit prohibition of “caressing, stroking or other ‘wandering’ of hands as inappropriate contact.”
The program continues to stress the need for vigilance and diligence on the part of all Church employees and volunteers to create a safe environment for everyone who engages the Church at any level, and to be familiar with and committed to taking proper steps in the event any kind of abuse is suspected.
“We continue to stress that the State of Texas mandates by law that even the suspicion of abuse must be reported to the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services,” Father Vaverek said.
That department’s phone number is 800-252-5400.
Any suspicion of abuse by Church personnel should be reported to Father Vaverek, either by phone, 903-266-2159, or email, firstname.lastname@example.org. All communications will be kept confidential.
Local law enforcement should also be notified of any suspicions of criminal misconduct.
Further information and documents pertaining to Ethics and Integrity can be found at the Ethics and Integrity section of the diocesan website.