In an effort to strengthen and update the pastoral policies defining appropriate behavior in situations of “pastoral support, spiritual direction and other forms of ministry,” the Anchorage Archdiocese has released a revised version of its Pastoral Policies.
The updated document, which took effect on Sept. 1, replaces the 2013 Code of Pastoral Conduct. This update had been in process for more than year, and after consultation with a numerous parties, Anchorage Archbishop Paul Etienne approved it.
While similar to the older document, the updated policies contain some new content as recommended by the Archdiocesan Review Board and changes made to the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in June 2018. The Review Board is composed of at least five members, one of whom is a priest, another a person experienced in legal matters or law enforcement, and another who has expertise in the area of sexual abuse or exploitation of minors and others. The members are appointed for five-year terms.
Apart from a revised format and some minor wording updates, the primary policy changes pertain to teachers, third-party contractors and the responsibility of employee supervisors.
All teachers certified by the state of Alaska will be required to also have a background check completed by the Catholic school or parish where they work.
Third-party contractors who have contact with minors or vulnerable adults will be required to meet safe environment compliance — having a background check and completing safe environment training.
Additionally, each employee supervisor will be required to ensure that every employee and volunteer who has contact with minors or vulnerable adults receives a copy of the new policies and that a record is kept of all who receive the policies.
In addition to the new pastoral policy form, an internal supplemental document is being prepared to detail safe environment procedures, such as a step-by-step process when concerns or allegations are reported.
Also, a pamphlet titled “Standards of Professional Conduct for Church Personnel and Visiting Ministers” (dated Sept. 1, 2018) was created which must be given to all new employees and volunteers. This includes clergy, archdiocesan employees and any visiting ministers.