Based on The Causes and Context of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Catholic Priests in the United States, 1950-2010

The Causes and Context Study acknowledges that innovators in the Catholic Church have taken serious steps toward understanding and reducing the problem of sexual abuse of minors by priests.The recommendations emanating from the Causes and Context Study by John Jay University support a desire for longstanding change expressed by many victims and those affected by this crisis.Towards that goal, pastoral care of victims must be the first objective in all dealings with those making allegations.The recommendations that follow are for diocesan bishops and focus on prevention policies, which, according to the John Jay study, address three factors:1) education, 2) situational prevention, and 3) oversight and accountability. Some recommendations might not be specifically addressed in the Causes and Context Study but the NRB feels they are important in the prevention of child sexual abuse. These recommendations also include activities that are currently being done; this list is meant to reaffirm those activities.



Preordination candidates

  • Ensure the formation of candidates for Holy Orders is based upon the full implementation of the USCCB Program for Priestly Formation and the National Directory for the Formation, Ministry and Life of Permanent Deacons.
  • Ensure education regarding situational factors (e.g., increased job stress, social isolation, decreased contact with peers, etc.) in formation programs.
  • Require safe environment and codes of conduct training for all seminarians and candidates for the permanent diaconate.
  • Monitor, and communicate widely within the Church through the audit process, the implementation of these programs.

Ongoing Formation

  • Ensure the full implementation of the Basic Plan for Ongoing Formation of Priests with particular stress on the human formation pillar.
  • Provide continued education regarding the situational factors of job stresses and social isolation.
  • Monitor and communicate widely within the Church through the audit process, the implementation of these programs.


  • Train diocesan personnel in Charter requirements, recordkeeping, state laws, mandated reporting, etc.
  • Train the various segments of parish life, (i.e.,parish staff, school personnel, parents, children, volunteers, ushers, Knights of Columbus, Altar Society, Holy Name Society, etc.) in diocesan policies, state laws, mandated reporting, etc.

Community at large:

Because the issue of child sexual abuse is not just a Catholic Church problem but is a matter that affects all facets of society, all institutions, all socio-economic classes and ethnicities, including male, female, and minors as offenders, the Church should reach out and:

  • Engage Youth Serving Organizations; i.e. Boy Scouts, Youth Sports groups to join in the effort to protect children.
  • Develop positive collaborative relationship with local media institutions, DA offices and other law enforcement officials.
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  • Communicate openly with media outlets


  • Provide leadership to improve the quality and accessibility of care provided by Catholic treatment centers for clergy. They are a necessary tool for the regular care and crisis treatment of Catholic clergy.
  • Provide for the measuring, monitoring and reporting the effectiveness of the safe environment programs required by the Charter.
  • Develop an ongoing system of clergy evaluations and support at all levels that includes feedback to and from superiors and persons with whom they work closely. Diocesan bishops should hold as a priority the pastoral care of priests and foster their physical, spiritual, intellectual and psychological well-being, as taught in Presbyterorum ordinis n.7, and Christus Dominus n. 16.
  • Address the needs of priests to developclose, fraternal bonds with members of their presbyterate by encouraging small faith groups for priests (e.g., Emmaus, Jesu Caritas, etc.)
  • Be sensitive to priests living situations to reduce the likelihood of isolation and stress on his priests.
  • Maintain regular, personal contact with clergy as he is able.
  • Monitor and communicate widely within the Church through the audit process, the implementation of these programs.



  • Continue to improve the audit as the instrument of accountability for the bishops as adopted in Article 9 of the Charter, and cited in the Causes and Context Study.
    • Allow auditors access to specified source documents to verify information on audit instruments and charts.
    • Allow random parish audits during onsight audits conducted by StoneBridge Business Partners.


  • Review written policies and procedures for handling allegations of inappropriate behavior with minors to include the revised definition of sexual abuse of a minor that includes pornography and vulnerable adults.
  • Share publically, and at least annually, policies and procedures with the faithful so they understand the protections that have been established within the dioceses.
  • Develop an audit plan for auditing parishes for compliance with diocesan policies and in turn report to the parishes directly on an annual basis, the diocesan's audit results.


It is incumbent upon the bishops to ensure the routine practices included in the Five Principles adopted by the bishops in 1992, as stated in the Charter and codified in the Essential Norms, are followed. These practices include: 1) respond promptly to all allegations of abuse, 2) promptly relieve the alleged offender of ministerial duties if the allegation is supported by sufficient evidence, 3) comply with obligations of civil law, 4) reach out to victims and families and 5) deal as openly as possible with members of community. There are many recommendations coming from the Causes and Context Study. These should be viewed as the first conversations of an ongoing dialogue between the faithful and bishops.