Sexual Abuse Policy

The Sisters of the Order of Saint Benedict have had an official policy regarding sexual abuse since January 1995. The Sisters will respond to any allegations that come to us directly from a complainant or through a diocesan victim's advocate or a licensed professional retained by the complainant.

We invite anyone with an allegation against any of our Sisters to contact our prioress directly, Sister Michaela Hedican.

The Sisters' primary concern is with the safety and well-being of the complainant and care for any Sister against whom an allegation is made.

For the diocesan contacts for reporting suspected sexual abuse, click here.

SISTERS OF THE ORDER OF SAINT BENEDICT

ST. JOSEPH, MINNESOTA

 

SEXUAL ABUSE POLICY 545

 

Public Statement

The Sisters of the Order of Saint Benedict have had an official policy regarding sexual abuse since January 1995.  The Sisters will respond to any allegations that come to them directly from a complainant or through a diocesan victim’s advocate or a licensed professional retained by the complainant.  Anyone with an allegation against any Sister of Saint Benedict should contact the prioress directly.  The Sisters’ primary concern is with the safety and well-being of the complainant and care for any Sister against whom an allegation is made.

General Matters

In the spirit of the Gospel value of respect for all individuals, the members of the Sisters of  the Order of Saint Benedict strive to conduct themselves in a manner which advances the personal, emotional and mental health of those with whom and for whom they serve. Mindful of the dignity of all persons, members relate to others with reverence, honor and respect for sexual, personal, emotional, social, and psychological boundaries.   

As a Benedictine community devoted to service in various ministries, the members are expected to be cognizant of the positions of power they hold, the vulnerability of those served and their responsibility toward them. The Sisters of the Order of Saint Benedict are opposed to any sexual abuse by anyone. In the event of an allegation of sexual abuse by a member of the Sisters of the Order of Saint Benedict, St. Joseph, MN, the Sisters will do all that is necessary to respond to the complaint and bring satisfactory closure to the matter.

Definitions

Sexual Abuse

The term sexual abuse is defined as sexual contact with a minor or vulnerable adult, asdescribed in the applicable State statutes.

 Member

A member of the Sisters of the Order of Saint Benedict is a woman who has made perpetual profession within this community. This includes deceased members who were perpetually professed. 

This policy may serve as a guideline for response to allegations against:

·      a woman in initial formation who has made first profession or been accepted by the prioress for the postulancy or the novitiate stages of formation;

·      a woman who was a member of the community at the time of the alleged abuse but has since discontinued her membership with the community.

Vulnerable Persons

All children and all vulnerable adults as defined in section 626.557, subd. 2(b) of the Minnesota Statutes. Any person 18 years of age or older is considered vulnerable when that person, because of impairment of mental or physical function or emotional status, is unable or unlikely to report abuse or neglect without assistance.                 

                                                                      

This policy is meant to reflect Minnesota law and Canon Law, as well as the personal convictions of the members of the Sisters of the Order of Saint Benedict. The law changes from time to time by enactment of amendments to statutes and judicial interpretations. Therefore, it is incumbent upon all members to become familiar with such changes. The policy is meant to be general in nature. Its specific application and the procedures for investigating an allegation are fact-specific and will vary from case to case.     

Investigation

In the event of an allegation against a Sister, the Prioress or her designate will initiate the following procedures as appropriate to the situation.

 

  1. Initial steps in response to notice of an allegation of sexual abuse against a Sister

a. The Prioress or her designate may assign responsibility for taking action as appropriate. Those to whom responsibility is assigned may include a member of community administration, legal counsel, work site supervisor, and insurance representative.

b. A reported incident may be investigated by the appropriate person, with care taken to protect the confidential interests of all parties and the requirements of law.

c. A report to civil officials must be made within twenty-four (24) hours in cases of mandated reporting (Vulnerable Adult Act; Child Protection Act).

   

2.  Commitment to the complainant

a. The Prioress will generally listen to the complainant initially and then offer them the name of an advocate who is qualified to provide advocacy assistance.

b. Professional advice is sought in responding to the complainant.

c. Medical, psychological and spiritual assistance is offered as appropriate.

 

3.  Commitment to the Sister accused of sexual abuse. The following steps will  be taken as appropriate:

a. Inform the accused Sister of the allegation, taking into consideration that facts have not yet been determined, and offer her resources including legal and canonical counsel, separate from the community’s legal counsel, and offer a community support person to assist her with spiritual and psychological care.

b. Discuss with the Sister any other procedures needed.

c. During the internal and/or outside investigation and prosecution of the case, if any, the Prioress may temporarily relieve the Sister of her work or place other restrictions on her as appropriate.

d. Depending on the outcome of the initial procedures, the Sister may be urged to undergo psychological treatment and may be permanently removed from any ministry which endangers children or vulnerable adults, or have other restrictions placed on her.

e. If allegations against the Sister are not substantiated, every effort is made to exonerate her and to provide spiritual and psychological assistance. A public statement of exoneration is made at the discretion of the Sister and the Prioress.

 

 

4.  Procedures with the Benedictine community

a. Any Sister who receives information about an allegation of sexual abuse by a member of the community is required to comply with civil reporting requirements and is urged to inform the Prioress.

b. Community members are asked to respect the confidentiality of this information

c. The Prioress or her representative communicates with the Monastic Council as appropriate.

d. In the event the situation becomes public, the Prioress uses her discretion and communicates orally, in person or by way of her representative, with the members of the monastic community and with the media. 

e. In all cases the confidentiality of the parties is respected.

 

Collaboration

The community will collaborate with others out of concern for the good of the religious community and the wider community, including collaboration with church officials, with employers and with civil officials.

 

Prevention

The community is committed to prevention, including screening and education of members, and fostering the implementation of prevention programs in places of ministry.

 

Communication

The Office of Development and Communications will handle all media contacts or inquiries regarding an incident of alleged abuse and direct them to the prioress or her representative. The statement in response to media contacts will be paragraph 2 of this policy:

         

As a Benedictine community devoted to service in various ministries, the members are expected to be cognizant of the positions of power they hold, the vulnerability of those served and their responsibility toward them. The Sisters of the Order of Saint Benedict are opposed to any sexual abuse by anyone. In the event of an allegation of sexual abuse by a member of the Sisters of the Order of Saint Benedict, St. Joseph, MN, the Sisters will do all that is necessary to respond to the complaint and bring satisfactory closure to the matter.

 

 

Resolution

A record of the matter will be kept and the community will follow up with the victim and the accused to determine the ongoing care needs.

 

 

PROCEDURE ADOPTED:  ADMINISTRATIVE TEAM  January 7, 1995

PROCEDURE REVIEWED: LEADERSHIP TEAM  May 26, 1999    

PROCEDURE REVISED: LEADERSHIP TEAM  February 27, 2001

PROCEDURE REVISED: LEADERSHIP TEAM  April 24, 2002

PROCEDURE REVISED: LEADERSHIP TEAM  July 16, 2002

PROCEDURE REVIEWED: LEADERSHIP TEAM  August 9, 2003

PROCEDURE REVIEWED: LEADERSHIP TEAM  October 17, 2003

PROCEDURE REVIEWED: COUNCIL  February 14, 2004

PROCEDURE REVIEWED: LEADERSHIP TEAM  April 6, 2010

PROCEDURE REVIEWED: LEADERSHIP TEAM December 3, 2013