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4/5/2018 9:00:00 AM
Diocese reviews IMAP and responses on abuse
'Committed to providing meaningful, accessible support'
In 2004, the Albany Diocese established the Independent Mediation Assistance Program (IMAP) to address the needs of individuals who, as minors, were sexually abused by clergy. The program was one of the first in the country to address the needs of victims and survivors as they sought healing.

The IMAP program concluded two years later, after all requests for assistance had been addressed, but the Diocese continues to provide the same kind of support and assistance as was provided by IMAP. The program is now administered by assistance coordinator Frederick Jones. (Call 518-453-6646 or email assistance.coordinator@rcda.org.)

"The Diocese is committed to keeping children safe in every Catholic place, and to addressing the scourge of sexual abuse in a comprehensive, proactive and accountable way," say diocesan officials.

A statement released last week by the Diocese in response to inquiries about its policies called the sexual abuse of a minor "an abhorrent crime" for which the Diocese has "zero tolerance."

"No priest or deacon who is determined to have sexually abused a minor at any time is permitted to remain in ministry; nor can he be transferred into, out of or within the Diocese," said a further statement. "Any employee who is determined to have sexually abused a minor also will be removed from diocesan employment.

"There are no priests or deacons in ministry nor any employees serving the Diocese today whom the Diocese has determined sexually abused a minor at any time. All allegations of clergy sexual abuse, regardless of when the incident was alleged to have occurred, are reported to law enforcement agencies. The Diocese cooperates fully in all investigations."

Over the last two decades, the Diocese removed from ministry 26 clergy who had been credibly accused of abusing minors. Any priest for whom reasonable grounds were found to support an allegation of sexual abuse of a minor is included in a list published on the diocesan website, www.rcda.org.

"The Albany Diocese urges anyone who knows or believes an act of sexual abuse has occurred to report the allegation immediately to a law enforcement agency," the Diocese added. "We continue to provide victims and survivors of clergy sexual abuse with support and assistance."

Explaining IMAP
The IMAP program sprung from procedures set forth in the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' 2002 "Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People." The charter lists guidelines for reconciliation, healing, accountability and prevention of future acts of abuse. 

Retired New York State Court of Appeals Judge Howard Levine designed and administered the IMAP program, having spent nearly a year doing research in consultation with victims and their attorneys, victims' organizations, and experts on trauma associated with childhood sexual abuse.

Among those experts were psychiatrists, psychologists and other medical professionals. Judge Levine also reviewed victims' assistance programs sponsored by other dioceses.

The non-profit New York State Dispute Resolution Association (NYSDRA) trained and provided mediators, victim advocates and other staff for IMAP; the program operated independently of the Diocese, based out of NYSDRA's offices in Troy. A former FBI agent served as IMAP's independent investigator.

Funded by the Diocese with $5 million from the diocesan self-insurance fund, IMAP ran until 2006, having been extended twice to ensure that all victims of abuse had the opportunity to apply for aid. All told, IMAP provided assistance to more than 40 individuals -- a total of nearly $3 million. Survivors of abuse used the funds for personal psychotherapy, family counseling, job training, debt repayment, education and medical and dental care, as well as other services.

Other actions
In addition to continuing to offer an assistance coordinator, the Diocese's Virtus safe environment program is mandated for all employees and volunteers of the Diocese and its parishes and schools. Background checks are also mandatory for anyone working or volunteering.

More than 9,000 adults participated in this training last year alone, including more than 300 clergy. The Diocese just initiated mandatory retraining and new background checks every five years for all employees and volunteers, as well.

In Catholic schools and faith formation classes, tens of thousands of children also receive age-appropriate safety training every year to help them recognize the warning signs of inappropriate behavior and to protect themselves by reporting the behavior. In 2017, approximately 16,000 children in the Diocese participated in that program.

Every audit since 2002 has found the Diocese in full compliance with the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People. The last audit was completed in October 2017 and included parish visits by the auditors.

In the interest of transparency and accountability, the Diocese's policies are posted at www.rcda.org/offices/protecting-children-young-people/protecting-children-policies-and-guidelines.

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