Guide for Pastoral Conduct With Minors
To report sexual abuse by clergy, parish personnel or volunteers of the Eparchy of Newton, please call the Victim Assistance Coordinator at 1-800-479-5910.
“Whoever receives one such little child in my name receives Me…” (Mt 18: 5)
Christ our God established His holy Church, through the shedding of His blood and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, as the Kingdom of God on earth and the means of Divine Life for all who believe. Through the Mysteries of Holy Baptism and Chrismation, the members of the Church renounce sin and are made “temples of the Holy Spirit” and “partakers of the Divine nature.” They share in the mystical life-blood of Christ that flows through His body, the Church.
Those set apart by Ordination serve as ministers of the Holy Mysteries for the salvation and sanctification of God’s people and the building up of the Body of Christ. (canon 367) By virtue of their baptism, the Laity also can serve in roles of pastoral ministry for the building up of the Kingdom of God. (canon 11)
All who serve in any capacity in the Church—Bishops, Priests, Deacons, and the Laity—are bound always to be models of Christian living and Christ-like action, holding themselves to the highest standards of conduct. Indeed, the admonition of our Divine Savior, “…whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened round his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea” (Mt. 18:6), is all the more forceful for those who serve in the Church.
Provided for in the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches and required by the Policy of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Priests or Deacons of the Eparchy of Newton, the following Code of Ethics specifies basic standards of conduct for all who serve in pastoral roles—clergy and laity alike—in parishes, religious communities, church institutions and organizations.
Code of Ethics
Clergy, lay staff, and volunteers working with minors assist the parents in their God-given obligation to provide their children with the means of salvation and sanctification. Therefore, they are duty-bound to be vigilant at all times in providing for children environments that lift the mind and heart to God and to the “things that are above.” In addition, those working with children shall always avoid even the appearance of impropriety in their dealings with these “little ones.”
Physical contact with children must always be pure, gentle, and loving (completely non-sexual and otherwise appropriate) and never in private. One-on-one meetings with young people are best held in a public area, or if that is not appropriate, then the door to the room is left open. The parents should be made aware of all meetings with their children and typically be waiting in another room for them.
When working with children, it is never appropriate to use alcohol or illegal drugs, nor should alcohol, drugs, cigarettes, or inappropriate reading material or videos ever be provided to them. The use of such things in working with minors is never appropriate.
Clergy should never allow minors to stay overnight in the cleric’s private residence. Youth ministers, teachers, and any adult should always meet with young people in areas that are visible and accessible. It is always good practice to have two adults present in the meeting area and when driving with minors in the car.
Clergy, lay staff, and volunteers should never provide minors with private or overnight accommodations without other adult supervision present in any Church-owned facility, private residence, hotel, or any other place.
In rare, emergency situations, when accommodation is necessary for the health and well-being of the minor, the clergy, staff or volunteer should take extraordinary care to protect all parties from the appearance of impropriety and from all risk of harm. Using a team approach in managing emergency situations is recommended.
Clergy, lay staff, and volunteers are bound to be models of celibate or married chastity (depending on their state in life) at all times in all their dealings with God’s people. (cf. canon 373) Clergy, lay staff, and volunteers who work in any capacity with minors assume the full burden of responsibility for establishing and fastidiously maintaining clear, appropriate, and virtuous boundaries with children and young people.
A grave offense against the sixth commandment of the Decalogue, it is always morally reprehensible to exploit a minor for sexual gratification. This includes all physical, psychological, verbal and written communications of a sexual or inappropriate nature. The use of profanity, off-colored humor, and the like, as well as giving and accepting gifts from minors without the parents’ knowledge is to be completely avoided.
Allegations of sexual misconduct that are credible should be taken seriously and reported to appropriate ecclesiastical and civil authorities according to the policies and procedures of the Eparchy of Newton. Clergy, staff and volunteers should review and know the child abuse regulations and reporting requirements of the particular state and locality where they serve. When there is an indication of any illegal action the proper ecclesiastical and civil authorities should be notified.
When an uncertainty exists about whether a situation or course of conduct violates this Code, consult the Eparchial Chancery.
The confidentiality of the Mystery of Holy Confession (seal of confession) is inviolable. (canon 733) Under no circumstances whatsoever can there ever be any disclosure of information received solely through the Mystery of Holy Confession.
Information obtained in the course of counseling or spiritual direction shall be confidential, except for compelling professional reasons or as required by law. In counseling or spiritual direction with minors, if there is reasonable cause to believe that there is a serious threat to the minor’s health or welfare, including sexual abuse or neglect, or a disclosure is made indicating that the minor is being abused in a any way, the counselor/spiritual director should contact the appropriate ecclesiastical and civil authorities and make a report according to the policies and procedures of the Eparchy of Newton.
The Health and Well-Being of the Clergy
“Clerics are bound in a special manner to the perfection which Christ proposed to his disciples, since they are consecrated to God in a new way by sacred ordination, so that they may become more suitable instruments of Christ, the eternal Priest, in the service of the people of God, and at the same time that they be exemplary models to the flock.” (canon 368) This awesome responsibility borne by those who minister in the Household of God requires that they live lives of complete fidelity to Christ in all piety and honesty. Fervent prayer, regular use of Mystery of Holy Confession, spiritual direction and retreats are all vital in living lives of purity and holiness. (canon 369) Daily invoking the abundant mercy of God in weakness and failings is the means by which we receive the grace to accomplish the ministry of Christ our God.