Dioceses Require Criminal Checks of Volunteers


Clergy, staff members, and volunteers in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Paterson, N.J., are expected to undergo criminal background checks as the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops works to repair the damage from the clerical sexual abuse scandal and to reassure members that children are safe in the church’s hands, the New York Times reports.

Dioceses around the nation are at various stages of investigating their volunteers and employees; the conference’s auditors are due to report next month on compliance with new church guidelines.

The Times says some volunteers believe that it is hard to square the fingerprinting of parents with the fact that it was priests who were the focus of the abuse scandal. All New Jersey dioceses but Newark require fingerprints for clergy and for staff members and volunteers who work with children. The prints are checked against records of the state police and, in some cases, the FBI. Grounds for dismissal include felony convictions involving sex crimes, drugs, violence, theft, or weapons. Some dioceses examine arrest records.

New York State law forbids fingerprinting as a condition of employment except for certain categories of workers. The Archdiocese of New York has contracted with ChoicePoint Inc. of Alpharetta, Ga., a background-check company handling a number of dioceses, to run an individual through its databases of conviction, prison, and sex offender records.

Link: http://www.nytimes.com/2003/12/02/nyregion/02CHUR.html

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