BENEDICTINE  SISTERS  OF ELIZABETH, NEW  JERSEY

Sexual Abuse Policy

 

Developed: 3/03

Revised:    4/05

1.  INTRODUCTION

Benedictine Sisters of Elizabeth, New Jersey Mission Statement

The Benedictine Sisters of Elizabeth, New Jersey are monastic women who seek God in Community through Gospel values and the Rule of Saint Benedict.  The Sisters live out their monastic conversion, supported by Eucharist, Liturgy of the Hours, Lectio Divina, and service to one another.  Through lives balanced with contemplation the Sisters witness to Jesus Christ through community, hospitality, and service in education, health care and spirituality.

 The Benedictine Sisters of Elizabeth hold each member accountable to a life lived in accord with the Rule of St. Benedict and the Gospel values.  Each member is formed in an atmosphere of Benedictine values that are “Christocentric”.

 As Benedictine women, we are called to live this Christ-centered life by working for justice, peace and integrity in the lives of our Sisters, the Church, and those who we serve through our ministries.

 For these reasons, sexual abuse by a member of this monastic community is not in keeping with the Gospel; it is not within the scope of religious life or ministry, and is not permitted or condoned in any manner.

 Based on the values of our religious commitment, the Benedictine Sisters of Elizabeth take appropriate measures for the prevention of sexual abuse by a member of the monastic community by providing education for all canonical members, evaluation as needed, and by utilizing appropriate screening procedures for candidates for membership.  The Prioress will intervene responsibly whenever an allegation of sexual abuse is brought against a member.  The procedures set forth are not an expression of any judgment of guilt or innocence, but are intended to indicate the serious nature of such cases and to protect the rights of all concerned.

 

2.   Community Members’ Obligation

A. 

All members of the Community have an obligation to read, understand and refer to this policy and to follow all procedures contained herein.

B. 

All members of the Community are required to report, as soon as it comes to their attention, either to the Prioress or a member of the Council, instances of sexual abuse involving a member of the Community.  This reporting obligation also includes informing the person raising the complaint, allegation or suspicion that it will be reported immediately to the Prioress or a member of the Council.  The member must also report the matter to civil authorities as required by law.

C. 

The member of the Council who receives any complaint, allegation or suspicion is required to report this information to the Prioress.

D.

In the event a Community member is accused, she would be expected to cooperate fully with the Review Board.

 

3.  Initial Assistance To Those Affected

A.

All accusations of sexual abuse by a member of the Benedictine Sisters of Elizabeth will be taken seriously and will be handled with pastoral concern for the complainant and for the accused.

B.

The Prioress will express to the victim the pastoral concern of the Benedictine Sisters of Elizabeth.  She may provide interim pastoral support to the victim.

C.

During the period of investigation the accused will be removed from any ministry involving children under the age of 18 as appropriate.

D.

The confidentiality, privacy, canon law, civil rights and legal rights of the victim and the accused will be taken into consideration.

E.

In the case of a minor, the Prioress will assure that the law concerning obligatory reporting to the appropriate state child protection agency has been met.

 

4.  Investigation

A.

The Prioress will appoint a delegate/liaison to investigate and respond to the allegation.  She may convene a Response Team to assist in the investigation and response to an allegation.

B.

The investigation of the allegation shall be made in accordance with the Code of Canon Law and the applicable laws of the state.

C.

In any action affecting her canonical rights, the accused sister has the right to an advocate of her choosing, who will provide her with counsel.  The Prioress will provide the accused member with personal and professional support as needed.

D.

If the Prioress is the  subject  of  an  allegation  of  sexual abuse, then the  Subprioress shall investigate and respond to the allegation.

 

5.  The Monastery Review Board

A.

The Monastery hereby creates a Monastery Review Board (MRB) to respond to any allegation of sexual conduct by a sister.  In all circumstances, the Monastery may decide which resources are necessary to deal with the problem.

B.

The MRB will consist of a primarily lay group not in the employ of the Monastery but designated and appointed by the Prioress.

C.

The MRB will act on behalf of the Monastery by investigating such allegations dealing with the various individuals or constituencies in order to conduct a thorough investigation for the facts and recommending appropriate action to the Prioress.

D.

The Monastery Liaison will be a nonvoting member of the MRB and will not appear at interviews unless her presence is requested by the person being interviewed.  If conflicts of interest exist, The Prioress will appoint a substitute.

E.

The MRB may also consult with the Subprioress, President/Principal, department heads, social services personnel, legal counsel, a canonist and any other Monastery official or government agency.

 

6.  Collaboration

A.

The Prioress will collaborate with diocesan policies where applicable.

B.

The  information will  be  shared  as  appropriate  with the local ordinary of  the Diocese of Newark and the Bishop of the Diocese where the allegation is said  to have occurred.  The President of the Federation of St. Scholastica will also be informed in a timely fashion.

C.

It may be necessary for the Prioress to inform the employer of the accused member keeping the matter as confidential as possible.

D.

Insurance  providers will be notified of the matter.

 

7.   Resolution

A.

Based upon recommendations and out of pastoral concern, the Prioress will provide follow-up care for the victim and the accused.  This may include:

 

1.

Pastoral care and/or counseling for the victim

 

2.

Psychological assessment and/or treatment for the accused

 

3.

Any necessary restrictions on the member’s ministry or living

 

4.

Canonical procedures against the member, including dismissal, as appropriate.

 

5.

Restoration of the good name of a falsely or mistakenly accused member

 

6.

Refusal of a sister to cooperate with this policy and procedures may result in the initiation of appropriate canonical procedures in accord with the Code of  Canon Law  and  the Constitution  and  the Norms of  the  Federation of  St. Scholastica.

B.

A record of the case will be maintained

C.

The monastic community will make efforts to assist in the healing and reconciliation process for all parties concerned: the victim, the accused member and the monastic community.

 

8.   Prevention And Education

   A.

The Prioress and her Council will provide every member formally accepted into the canonical formation process and all professed members of the Benedictine  Sisters of Elizabeth with  this statement of policy to help them to recognize and prevent of sexual abuse

   B.

It  is  the  individual  monastic  member’s  responsibility to be   cognizant   of appropriate behaviors in relationships and to maintain integrity in all ministerial interactions.

   C.

Each Sister is held personally responsible for knowing and carrying out the legal, professional and pastoral requirements of her ministry.

   D.

To assist  her  in her education  of  responsibility,  the monastic community will provide  periodic  educational  programs  and  materials  to  help  members  to             recognize appropriate ministerial boundaries and  to  identify and intervene in any reasonably suspected abuse.

   E.

The  Benedictine  Sisters  of  Elizabeth will provide support  and  treatment  for Sisters who need it

 

9.    Communications

   A.

From a foundation of human and personal concern for all those involved in the situation, the Prioress will  maintain confidentiality and discretion to the fullest extent possible.

   B.

Relevant information will be shared with anyone who has ongoing responsibility for the accused when this is appropriate, including church leaders and employers.

   C.

The Prioress will inform the Monastic Community of the allegation as appropriate.

   D.

The  Prioress and / or her designated spokesperson will  be responsible  for all public statements  regarding  the  matter.  Individual members of  the monastic community are urged to refrain from making public statements.

   E.

The communication is to be conveyed with openness, honesty and compassion while maintaining the privacy concerns of those who are personally involved.

 

 

DEFINITIONS

 

MONASTIC COMMUNITY      All individuals having canonical membership status in the Benedictine Sisters of Elizabeth (Novices, First Professed and Perpetually Professed)

 

PRIORESS      Elected and canonically recognized head of the Benedictine Sisters of Elizabeth

 

COUNCIL      Three appointed and three elected perpetually professed members of the Benedictine Sisters of Elizabeth who serve as an advisory body to the Prioress.

 

SEXUAL ABUSE  Sexual abuse is sexual conduct between an adult and a minor or “vulnerable adult” as defined by law.

 

VULNERABLE ADULT – Any person over the age of 18 who because of physical, mental or emotional incapacity is unable to report sexual abuse.