As the Bishop of Orange and faithful shepherd of a large and dynamic Catholic community, nothing is more important to my pastoral mission than to provide the utmost care for those who need it most. From counseling the needy to extending financial aid to the poor and marginalized, our Church and diocese is committed to the physical, spiritual and social well-being of everyone we encounter. This is particularly true for the children we seek to support, guide and care for.
The leaders of the Diocese of Orange have on many occasions over the last decade or more publicly acknowledged and apologized for past failings. We have promised, along with all of the Bishops of the United States, to remain ever vigilant in assuring the safety of children and youth in our dioceses. The people of the Diocese of Orange including its Bishops, clergy, lay leaders, staff and volunteers have put our words of acknowledgement, apology and promise into action, definitive and measurable action.
In June of 2002 the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) instituted the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People in response to the sexual abuse crisis in the church and pledged to promote healing and reconciliation with victim survivors of sexual abuse, guarantee an effective response to allegations of sexual abuse of minors, ensure the accountability of their procedures, and protect the faithful in the future. An unaffiliated auditing firm charged with verifying diocesan compliance with these mandates has deemed the Diocese of Orange to be in full compliance with the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People every year since its inception in 2003.
Our diocese has a demonstrated steadfast commitment to creating and maintaining safe environments for children and youth in our schools, parishes and other facilities. This critical task is taken very seriously. We mandate a comprehensive background screening for all adults likely to be in contact with children – already over 60,000 have been vetted. This process allows for the collection of a wide variety of past screening data, including extensive background checks and fingerprinting, and is designed to enhance already in-place diocesan policies.
All clergy, employees, and volunteers are required to undergo Safe Environment Training. In 2011 alone, the Diocese trained 288 priests, 101 deacons, 1,630 teachers, 2,311 school employees and more than 19,000 volunteers. Our schools and Religious Education classes at parishes and diocesan centers also provide Safe Environment education for children. This procedure is suited to their age and level of understanding. In 2011, nearly 64,000 children participated in this critically important awareness program.
The Catholic Church and the Diocese of Orange remain ever vigilant in providing a safe and nurturing environment for children, our most cherished resource. The Church has worked hard to protect children. Much has been done but more needs to be done. Until abuse is no longer a part of society, we will continue our efforts to protect children, youth and vulnerable adults.
Please be assured of my continuing prayers for all the families of our diocese.
Sincerely in Christ,
+ Bishop Kevin Vann