We are all Called to Protect.
The Diocese of Austin is committed to preventing harm from happening to any of our children or vulnerable adults. If you are aware of sexual or physical abuse and/or neglect of a child or vulnerable adult, state law requires you to report that information to local law enforcement or the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services. Additionally, if the suspected abuse is by clergy or an employee or volunteer of any diocesan parish, school or agency, a Notice of Concern should be submitted to the diocesan Ethics and Integrity in Ministry Office. Reports may be made anonymously, if verifiable.
(from the Diocese of Austin Policies on Ethics and Integrity in Ministry, July 2012)
Abuse of Minors or Vulnerable Adults
- In accordance with Texas law, any citizen who has cause to believe a minor or vulnerable adult is being, or may have been, abused, is required to report his or her suspicions to the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (TDFPS) or local civil authorities (police). Reports should be made within 48 hours (and must be made in that time-frame by mandatory reporters). To report child or elder abuse, TDFPS maintains a 24-hour abuse hotline at 1-800-252-5400; or a report may be made on their web site at www.dfps.state.tx.us. This reporting requirement is the same for allegations against Church personnel and/or a parent or caregiver.
- The investigation of allegations of abuse is the responsibility of civil authorities. Church personnel should not conduct any investigation of abuse allegations unless directed to do so by civil authorities.
- Reports of suspected or known abuse may be made confidentially to civil and diocesan authorities, unless otherwise required to be disclosed by canon law or State of Texas law.
EIM Policy Violations
- Once reported to civil authorities, suspected or known abuse of a minor or vulnerable person that may involve Church personnel, and/or other suspected or observed violations of the Ethics and Integrity in Ministry policies of the Diocese of Austin, shall be reported immediately to any of the following persons: their immediate supervisor; the pastor of the parish or principal of the school; A designated representative of the diocese; one may submit an anonymous, specific and verifiable letter to the Vicar General or Bishop of Austin.
- It is recommended that persons making a report of abuse or policy violation use the Diocese of Austin Notice of Concern form to maintain documentation of the report. If a report to TDFPS was made, a copy of that report should be attached to the Notice of Concern.
- The Diocese of Austin will cooperate fully with investigations by all civil authorities and will report indications of illegal actions discovered during policy violation investigations to civil authorities.
Handling non-EIM related Reports of Abuse of Minors or Vulnerable Persons
- Once reported to civil authorities, suspected or known abuse of a minor or vulnerable person that may involve a parent, legal guardian or caregiver should be reported to the pastor or principal and documented, including a copy of the report to TDFPS.
"It is the responsibility of the Catholic Church to respond with compassion
to the needs of those who have been abused."
Most Reverend Joe S. Vásquez, Bishop of Austin