Protecting Our Children

Letter from Bishop Robert Brennan

For more than 2,000 years, the Roman Catholic Church has worked to care for and love all of God’s children. In addition to helping those in need, and reaching out through the faith, the Diocese of Brooklyn maintains as its most important priority the protection of children. The sexual abuse of children has shaken the Catholic Church to its core. The fact that this was a reality in our church is disgraceful, as sexual abuse is both a crime and a grave sin. The heinous nature of this scandal has led the Church to make major reforms in its pledge to protect children, reconcile and heal. We are grateful to God that much has changed, and these vast reforms have made the Catholic Church one of the safest institutions in the country. However, we will never cease in working to address the effects of the abuse scandal to help restore trust and build a more faithful Church.

In 2002, the Catholic Bishops of the United States took meaningful steps to address the issue of sexual abuse by clergy, lay employees and volunteers in the Catholic Church. They approved the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, which includes guidelines for reconciliation, healing, accountability, and prevention of future acts of abuse. Since 2002, the Bishops have revised the Charter twice and will continue to update it as necessary.

To implement the goals expressed in the Charter, the Diocese of Brooklyn opened the Safe Environment Office in 2004. The office ensures anyone involved in the Church takes the Virtus Program, a sexual abuse training awareness program for priests, deacons, pastoral ministers, employees, and volunteers, that teaches how to recognize any signs of sexual abuse among the children with whom they may encounter. Children also receive age appropriate training that empowers them to recognize signs of sexual abuse so they can protect themselves. The Safe Environment Office coordinates background checks to ensure there is no history of criminal activity that might endanger children entrusted to our care, and administers codes of pastoral conduct which serve as guidelines for pastoral activity. Protecting God’s Children is a tremendous responsibility that the Diocese of Brooklyn has made a top priority.

The Charter requires that all dioceses/archdioceses be audited on a yearly basis to ensure compliance with the Charter mandates. Every two years, the audit is onsite. The Diocese of Brooklyn is scheduled for its next onsite audit later this year in 2022. Here are the results of the last audit.

In 2021, the Diocese expanded this important ministry and created the Office for the Protection of Children and Young People. The office serves as an umbrella that will oversee the Safe Environment office, the Office of Victim Assistance Ministry, and a newly created supervisory role aimed at ensuring transparency in the management of any allegation of sexual misconduct.

Of equal importance to protecting children was the need to reach out to victims and their families who have been impacted by sexual abuse by clergy. For many years, the Diocese of Brooklyn has provided assistance to those who have presented themselves to the Diocese as victims of sexual abuse by clergy through the Office of Victim Assistance. We are committed to helping anyone who was hurt as a minor by sexual abuse to seek help and begin the healing process. Healing is a journey which can be taken in different steps. Circumstances for each victim are varied, but the commonality is that there is a need to feel that someone understands their pain, acknowledges the wrongdoing and offers an apology in the name of the Church.

We hope that through the links on this page, you will find useful information related to the resources provided by the Diocese in Brooklyn and Queens to address the issue of sexual abuse by clergy, lay employees, and volunteers in the Catholic Church.

As Bishop of the Diocese of Brooklyn, my prayers continue for all the victims of sexual abuse by clergy, or other Church personnel, within our Diocese and throughout the Church. May the Lord our God, who loves us, bring healing and peace.

Most Reverend Robert Brennan
Bishop of Brooklyn