The Diocese of Providence, Rhode Island, said it will notify the state attorney general of any allegations of sexual abuse of a minor in an effort to strengthen its child protection policies.
The diocese said it already reports allegations of sexual abuse of a minor to law enforcement officers and said in a statement on Aug. 31 that the additional step of notifying the attorney general's office "provides supplemental transparency" to help ensure a safe environment.
Bishop Thomas J. Tobin of Providence said the agreement with the attorney general's office comes after "many months, even years, of reflection and discussion."
"I am grateful to the attorney general and his staff and the staff of the Diocese of Providence, for their commitment to this task," the bishop said in the statement. He also said that the new policy "affirms and builds upon the long-standing policy and practice of the Diocese of Providence to report each and every allegation of sexual misconduct with minors to law enforcement officials" and should be a useful model and an inspiration for other organizations.
"This new step strengthens existing reporting practices by the diocese, which in turn will ensure greater transparency and a more robust investigation, and if appropriate, prosecution of individuals who sexually abuse children," said Attorney General Peter Kilmartin.
Kilmartin said he appreciated the work of diocesan officials and Bishop Tobin on this new policy particularly for the "recognition that the sexual abuse by a member of the Catholic Church cannot and will not be tolerated."
"The sexual abuse of minors is a grave concern, a sin and a crime, in our society, and in the church," Bishop Tobin said in the statement announcing the new policy.
He said in recent years that the church has made significant progress in addressing sexual abuse, "but we cannot stop or grow comfortable now."
He said the Providence diocese is renewing its commitment to "eliminate sexual abuse of minors by any member of the church; to provide assistance and care to victims and their families; and to treat all individuals with the justice and love, the care and compassion demanded by our faith."