Diocese implements new reporting requirements for child protective services law
New amendments to the Child Protective Services Law (CPSL) in Pennsylvania that take effect on May 27 expand the definition of legally mandated reporters of suspected child abuse to authorities.
“The protection of minors placed in our care and their well-being is of primary concern to the Diocese of Pittsburgh,” Bishop Paul Bradley, diocesan administrator, wrote in a letter to all pastors on the new reporting requirements. “Our efforts in cooperating with the requirements of the CPSL reflect that concern.”
Those that will now be mandated reporters are any individuals who come into contact with children in the course of their work or professional practice and have “reasonable cause to suspect” that a minor has been abused sexually, physically or emotionally.
A minor is any individual who is under the age of 18.
Among the occupations specifically listed as mandated reporters in the CPSL amendments are many associated with Catholic institutions: clergy, teachers, day-care personnel, social service workers, school administrators, school nurses, foster-care workers, health care personnel and mental health workers.
Additionally, church personnel that will be considered mandated reporters under diocesan guidelines are parish and school administrative personnel, music ministers, child-care personnel, youth ministers, athletic coaches, food service personnel, classroom aides and playground monitors.
Also, non-paid and voluntary personnel who perform services for the church should consider themselves to be mandated reporters if they come into unsupervised contact with children during the course of their volunteer church work.
In early May, the Diocese of Pittsburgh issued a brochure detailing the impact of the mandatory reporting laws in Catholic institutions to every Catholic parish, school, and Catholic institution, as well as individuals in any ministry that may involve contact with minor children.
In the brochure, the Diocese of Pittsburgh stated that, “adherence by church personnel in the Diocese of Pittsburgh to the expanded reporting mandates is a vital part of the church's efforts to prevent the abuse of children…The Diocese of Pittsburgh urges that all church personnel resolve any questions about the interpretation of the law in favor of reporting.”
The brochure is available on the diocesan website at http://www.diopitt.org/postingboard under the heading of “Ministerial Leadership” on that page. Also posted are guidelines for parents on the mandated reporting requirements.
The Diocese of Pittsburgh will be providing training sessions on the mandatory reporting requirements through the Pennsylvania Family Support Alliance. Required to attend will be pastors, school principals, priests, deacons, catechetical administrators, youth ministers, pastoral associates, directors of music ministry, and parish social ministers.
All those in parish leadership will then be expected to provide training to employees and volunteers whose ministry they lead.
The brochure from the diocese explains that “members of the clergy are not permitted by church law and are not required by Pennsylvania law to report information received privately during sacramental confession or spiritual counseling.”
The mandate to report applies to all suspected child abuse, not just abuse that has been perpetrated by church personnel.
Any mandated reporter who knowingly fails to report child abuse commits a misdemeanor of the third degree for a first violation, and a misdemeanor of the second degree for any subsequent violation.
The maximum penalty for a misdemeanor of the third degree is imprisonment for one year. The maximum penalty for a misdemeanor of the second degree is imprisonment for two years.
The Diocese of Pittsburgh has had in place a toll-free line to report sexual abuse by clergy or church personnel. The number is 1-888-808-1235.
The diocesan Website also has a page (www.diopitt.org/abuse_outreach.plp) that posts information for victims, including the diocese's Clergy Sexual Misconduct Policy in English and Spanish.