"We strive to create a culture of healing and protection, where fostering right relationships, building resilience, and promoting healing are an integral part of who and how we are with children and youth, rather than merely a series of programs."
Kozisek added that the USCCB charter provides the basic guidelines and principles for child protection in the U.S. dioceses, which then implement them with some specific considerations for their individual communities and the resources available within them.
When abuse allegations are reported, Kozisek said the protocol is first to report the abuse to local law enforcement authorities and to Child Protective Services. The accused person is immediately suspended from ministry pending a legal and internal investigation.
If someone is legally charged, they are immediately barred from ministry. Even if an accused individual is not legally charged, but the internal investigation still finds them "unfit for ministry", they are removed from their employment or volunteer position, Kozisek said.
The Archdiocese of New York is also compliant with the USCCB charter, and has trained more than 100,000 people in providing a safe environment for children.
Edward Mechmann, director of public policy for the New York archdiocese, told CNA that the local Church has a "zero tolerance" policy when it comes to sexual abuse of minors, and that they also follow the protocol of having both legal and internal investigations of each allegation of abuse.
"At the conclusion of our investigation, if the accused is a cleric we submit the case to the Advisory Review Board for evaluation," he said.
"If they determine that the allegation is substantiated, then a recommendation is made to the cardinal that the cleric be permanently removed from ministry. If the accused is a layperson, and we determine that the allegation is substantiated, then they are discharged from employment or volunteer service and permanently barred from any ministry. As a result, we have a zero tolerance policy that applies equally to clergy and laity."
Last year, the USCCB found widespread compliance throughout the country in their annual report on the implementation of the charter.
According to the 2016 report, 386 out of the 838 people who reported past abuse as minors accepted diocesan outreach and healing, and continued support was provided to 1,646 victims.
Nojadera also said that while 4-6% priests were accused of abuse between 1960-1980, this percentage has dramatically decreased in recent years.
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"...in 2016, there were 35,815 active U.S. priests and 2 new substantiated cases of abuse of minors. That makes it 0.00558425% of priests who committed abuse in 2016. This is according to data collected by an annual audit of all dioceses/eparchies," he noted.
Mechmann said the key to combating abuse is combating a culture of abuse, which the Church has worked hard to do since the scandal of the early 2000s. The Church continuously reviews and updates recommended abuse prevention and reporting procedures and strives for full disclosure and a zero-tolerance policy of abuse.
"In the area of child protection, the corporate culture is the most important element. In the Church, we have successfully made child protection a key part of our regular course of business and we have made it unequivocally clear that any kind of sexual sin against minors is utterly unacceptable," he said.
"We have put into place strong policies that are aimed to prevent any abuse. These policies are taken very seriously by the leadership of the Church (laity and clergy alike) who have all demonstrated repeatedly that they are committed to the program. We have demonstrated over and over again that we are open to receiving complaints, we take all allegations seriously, we vigorously investigate them, and we are firm in correcting any problem," he said.
Nojadera added that the Church has learned a lot in terms of creating a safe culture for children since the abuse crisis first broke.
"To bring about reconciliation and healing, we must put victims first. A culture of secrecy only hides the wounds caused by abuse. Openness and transparency are an important part of the healing process," he said.