Where to Turn for Help

If you or someone you know believe that a Franciscan Friar of the Sacred Heart Province has violated the boundaries outlined in this pamphlet, please report such behavior to the Provincial Minister of the Sacred Heart Province. Your case will be handled with the strictest sensitivity and confidentiality. To ensure that happens, please, mark any written correspondence "Personal and Confidential."

The Provincial Minister
3140 Meramec Street
St. Louis, Missouri 63118
(314) 353-7470

Our Response to Sexual Abuse

The Franciscan Friars of the Sacred Heart Province recognize that sexual misconduct by our priests and Brothers has devastating consequences for victims and their families, for the lay and religious communities, and for t he perpetrators . We have become increasingly aware of the effects of this tragic behavior and have developed a steadfast commitment to helping those affected.

This brochure is intended to provide basic information about

  1. how the Franciscans in the Sacred Heart Province understand sexual misconduct with in ministerial relationships,
  2. what its procedures are for responding to complaints of sexually inappropriate behavior, and
  3. to whom those subjected to sexual misconduct can turn for help

Sexual Misconduct in a Ministerial Relationship

A ministerial relationship is one in which a person receives pastoral care from a religious, including

  • Clergy
  • Members of religious communities
  • Spiritual Directors and Pastoral Counselors

Sexual misconduct is a general term that encompasses sexual harassment, sexual exploitation, and sexual abuse.

Sexual harassment is defined as unwanted sexualized conduct or language between co-workers in the Church setting . It may include , but is not limited to:

  • Unsolicited sexual advances and propositions
  • The use of sexually degrading words to describe an individual or his/her body.
  • The telling of inappropriate or sexually-charged jokes
  • Retaliation against a co-worker who refuses sexual advances
  • Offers of preferential treatment such as promotions, positive performance evaluations, or favorably assigned duties or shifts in exchange for sexual favors.

Sexual exploitation in the context of the Church consists of sexual contact between a religious and the person receiving pastoral care from him or her.

Sexual abuse in the context of the Church is sexual contact  between a religious and a minor or vulnerable adult.

 

Sexual exploitation or sexual abuse can include physical contact or actions such as 

  • Sexual touch or other physical contact that makes the person being touched feel uncomfortable
  • Giving a sexually charged gift (such as lingerie)
  • A prolonged hug when a brief hug is customary behavior
  • Kissing on the lips when a kiss on the cheek would be appropriate
  • Showing sexually suggestive objects or pornography
  • Sexual intercourse, anal or oral sex

Sexual exploitation or sexual abuse can also include verbal behavior such as

  • Innuendo or sexual talk
  • Suggestive comments
  • Descriptions of sexual experiences, fantasies, or conflicts
  • Sexual propositions

The Franciscan Friars of the Sacred Heart Province want to leave no doubt about their position in regard to any of these tragic experiences. Sexual misconduct whether harassment, exploitation or abuse-by any Member, Employee or Volunteer is a violation of a person's human dignity and is contrary to the Gospel, the teaching of the Church and the Law of the Church. It is never acceptable in a pastoral relationship with a parishioner, employee, spiritual directee, counseling client or anyone who has sought the Church's ministry.

It is not uncommon for those who seek the Church's ministry to feel attracted to a religious or to be flattered by his or her attention. It is the conviction of the Franciscan Friars of the Sacred Heart Province t hat someone's attraction to a friar or even that person's enjoyment of any sexual interest shown by a friar does not excuse any form of sexual misconduct on his part. It is entirely the responsibility of the friar to maintain appropriate emotional and sexual boundaries with those with whom he works and /or serves.

How the Franciscan Friars of the Sacred Heart Province Respond to Complaints of Sexual Misconduct

The Franciscan Friars of the Sacred Heart Province are determined to respond to all allegations of sexual misconduct with great care. The Provincial Minister is personally committed to listening, understanding, and offering help, including appropriate psychological and spiritual counseling to anyone who alleges misconduct by a friar. Other friars and lay professionals assist him in honoring that promise.  

The Franciscan Friars of the Sacred Heart Province will respond swiftly to evaluate and investigate any allegations of sexual misconduct by a friar. Every effort , including the use of independent investigators, will be made to ensure that these investigations are credible and impartial. The Franciscan Friars of the Sacred Heart Province will also report any allegations of sexual misconduct which they receive to the appropriate civil authorities and want to emphasize that anyone who alleges the sexual misconduct has occurred has the right to make a similar report. Any friars found to have sexually abused a minor will be required to participate in an Aftercare Program established by Sacred Heart Province. This rigorous relapse prevention program provides appropriate psychological treatment for the offender and entails ongoing monitoring and supervision for the rest of the friar's life as a Franciscan.  

The Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People adopted by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has directed that religious communities establish Review Boards to monitor these Aftercare Programs, and the Franciscan Friars of the Sacred Heart Province have done so . Five lay professionals and three Franciscans with appropriate training and expertise work with the Provincial Administration not only to ensure that a friar's Aftercare Program is appropriate for his circumstances and that he is participating in it, but especially that the policies and practices of the Franciscan Friars of the Sacred Heart Province promote the safety and well-being of children and young adults, as we ll as appropriate relationships between the friars and anyone with whom they associate.

Preventing Sexual Misconduct

The Franciscan Friars of the Sacred Heart Province have adopted a series of measures which will, hopefully, prevent any future incident s of sexual abuse by the friars . These include extensive screening and mandatory psychological evaluation of all applicants for admission to the Postulancy Program in the Sacred Heart Province and ongoing education about issues related to sexuality and personal conduct for friars in their first years of Franciscan life in the Province. Friars in final vows are offered similar continuing education opportunities on a regular basis. Every effort is made to make everyone aware of their responsibility in this critical dimension of Church life.

Conclusion

It is the firm belief of the Franciscan Friars of the Sacred Heart Province that our friars must maintain appropriate boundaries with all people in order to preserve the integrity of the ministerial relationship. Anyone with knowledge of inappropriate behavior by a friar of the Sacred Heart Province-whether past or present-is asked to come forward with this information so that others can be spared from harm. The hope and prayer of the Franciscan Friars of the Sacred Heart Province is that everyone can join in t his effort to promote t he safety and well-being of all people, whether they're children or adults, and to promote the healing of all those who are in pain because of the abuse they've experienced.