Divina Miseratione et Apostolicæ Sedis Gratia
A Review Board as mandated by the particular law of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, contained in Essential Norms for Diocesan / Eparchial Policies Dealing with Allegations of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Priests or Deacons (articles 4-5) and referenced in the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People (article 2), has been previously established in the Diocese of Lansing, and approval given to its statutes.
These statutes have been carefully reviewed now in light of current circumstances and proposed for revision by the Review Board on June 1, 2015. I approve and promulgate these revisions and revoke any prior versions by means of this executory decree. I order that they are to take immediate effect, and be communicated by publication on the diocesan website.
Catholic Diocese of Lansing, Review Board Statutes (approved by Bishop of Lansing, June 29, 2015)
1. Purpose. In conformity with the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People and the Essential Norms for Diocesan I Eparchial Policies Dealing with Allegations of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Priests or Deacons, the Review Board of the Catholic Diocese of Lansing functions as a confidential consultative body to the Bishop.
The Review Board is to advise the Bishop in his assessment of allegations of sexual abuse of minors and in his determination of a cleric's suitability for ministry. It shall regularly review diocesan policies and procedures for dealing with sexual abuse of minors. Also, the Review Board can review these matters both retrospectively and prospectively and give advice on all aspects of responses in connection with these cases.
2. Membership. The Review Board will be composed of at least five persons of outstanding integrity and good judgment in full communion with the Church. The majority of the Review Board members will be lay persons who are not in the employ of the diocese, but at least one member should be a priest who is an experienced and respected pastor of the diocese in question, and at least one member should have particular expertise in the treatment of the sexual abuse of minors. The members of the Review Board will be appointed for a term of five years, which can be renewed. The Bishop may remove a member of the Review Board at any time. The Promoter of Justice is invited to participate in the meetings of the Board.
Vacancies, whether occurring by resignation or by expiration of a term, are filled by appointment of the Bishop.
3. Chair of the Review Board. The Review Board will select a Chair from among its members. The Chair presides at meetings. When the Chair is unavailable for a meeting, the Review Board will select another member to preside at that meeting. Where appropriate, the Chair serves as the public representative of the Review Board. At least annually, the Chair will meet personally with the Bishop to report on state and recent activities of the Review Board.
4. Fiscal Year. The fiscal year of the Review Board shall be from July 1 through June 30.
5. Meeting Procedure. A majority of the members of the Review Board constitute a quorum. The Chair presides at meetings of the Review Board, and leads a respectful discussion without unnecessary formality. The goal is to reach decisions by consensus. If consensus cannot be achieved, the Review Board may decide a question by vote.
6. Confidentiality. The information received by the Review Board, unless independently made public, is confidential. The discussions that occur at meetings of the Review Board are confidential except that they may be shared with the Bishop or his delegates at the request of the Bishop. Confidentiality is an essential element of service on the Review Board.
7. Consideration of Matters Before the Review Board. When an allegation is referred to the Review Board by a representative of the Bishop, the Board will schedule a meeting with the alleged victim. The alleged victim may bring a companion to the meeting. If preferable because of distance or other considerations, the Review Board may use teleconferencing equipment to meet with the alleged victim. If the accused cleric is living, the Review Board will extend him an offer to meet with the Review Board. The Review Board may meet with other persons as it thinks helpful. A person appearing before the Review Board may present documents or written narratives. Unless the Bishop directs otherwise, the accused cleric may read a written narrative supplied by an alleged victim, but may not photocopy it. At the request of the Review Board or at the direction of the Bishop, the Diocese of Lansing will give documents to the Review Board for its private consideration. If the Review Board believes that it should conduct other or further investigation of a particular matter, it will propose such a course of action to the Bishop for his consideration.
8. Counsel to the Bishop. The Bishop seeks the assistance of the Review Board in determining how best to respond to the allegation. The Review Board does not advise the Bishop as to the credibility of the alleged victim. Rather, the Review Board should advise the Bishop that the allegation (a) appears to be false, or (b) might be true (i.e., is not plainly false), or (c) appears to be true. The Review Board should further advise the Bishop whether the circumstances of the allegation appear to be known insofar as they can be ascertained, or whether the Review Board recommends further investigation. If further investigation is recommended, the Review Board may make appropriate recommendations regarding the scope or form of the investigation. The Review Board should advise the Bishop of any recommendations it has regarding the type(s) of assistance, if any, that the Diocese should provide to the alleged victim. Where appropriate, the Review Board should also advise the Bishop regarding the cleric's suitability for ministry. The Review Board shall present its conclusions orally to the Bishop, either at the close of a meeting or at a later time to be promptly arranged. If the Review Board reached its decision by vote because consensus could not be achieved, the views of both sides shall be presented to the Bishop. If the counsel and recommendations of the Review Board are transmitted to the Bishop by the Chair, the Bishop may meet with the full Review Board if he desires elaboration regarding the conclusions or the reasoning of the Review Board.
9. Response by Bishop. The Bishop will consider the recommendation of the Review Board, and may share his decision(s) with the Chair for private dissemination to the members of the Review Board.
10. Timing. An allegation of sexual abuse, even if arising from circumstances years or decades earlier, is of overriding importance to the alleged victim, the accused cleric, the Diocese of Lansing, and the faithful. To the extent possible in light of professional and familial responsibilities, members of the Review Board are to give the highest priority to this work, and keep the process moving at every stage. When an alleged victim wishes to appear before the Review Board, the Diocese of Lansing expects the person to be interviewed by the Board at its next regularly scheduled meeting, unless circumstances require an expedited or briefly delayed interview. The Diocese of Lansing expects the Review Board to provide the Bishop a full oral report within ten days of the Review Board's final discussion of the case. The Chair will provide the Bishop with a contemporaneous explanation of any significant delay, even if there is a sound reason for the delay.
11. Review of Diocesan Policies and Procedures. The Diocese of Lansing will provide the Review Board an updated list of its policies and procedures pertaining to abuse of minors. At any time, the Review Board may recommend changes in any of these policies and procedures.
12. Ethics. No member of the Review Board will speak or interact individually with an alleged victim or an accused cleric, except within the scope of the member's work with the Review Board. A member is disqualified from a matter if the member or anyone in the member's family has a relation beyond mere acquaintance with the alleged victim or the accused cleric, or if there is real or a reasonably perceived reason that the member would not be able to consider the matter fairly. No member of the Review Board will comment publicly on a matter that has come before the Review Board.
13. Prayer. A member of the Review Board understands that this work is accomplished through a firm commitment to prayer, seeking the guidance of the Holy Spirit for the Bishop and the Review Board, and God's peace and healing for the alleged victim, the accused cleric, and anyone else involved in the matter.
14. Faithful Service. In both personal and professional life, a member of the Review Board must exemplify the moral teachings of the Catholic Church. The member must not teach, advocate, model, or in any way encourage beliefs or behaviors that are contrary to the teachings of the Catholic Church.
Given at the curia of the Diocese of Lansing on this 29th day of June in the year of Our Lord, 2015.