The Society of the Divine Word actively promotes the protection of children. In 2010, Praesidium, an independent organization, audited the Chicago Province and found that the province is in compliance with the highest current national standards for protecting children.
In granting accreditation, Praesidium stated, "They have acted upon the call to more accountability and transparency in how to protect children, handle allegations of sexual abuse, reach out to victims, and supervise members who have sexually abused."
If you or someone you know suspects sexual abuse of a minor by a Divine Word priest or brother, please read the following guidelines. The guidelines outline how to report an allegation and the procedures that will follow.
Guide for Individuals Reporting an Allegation of Sexual Abuse
The Chicago Province of the Society of the Divine Word recognizes that the sexual abuse of a minor by a priest or Brother has devastating consequences for the victim and his or her family, for the lay and religious communities, and for the perpetrator.
The Society of the Divine Word has become increasingly aware of the effects of this tragic behavior and has developed a steadfast commitment to help those affected. This guide is intended to provide basic information on the procedures for reporting and responding to allegations of sexual abuse.
Where to Turn for Help
If you or someone you know believes that a member of the Society of the Divine Word has engaged in the sexual abuse of a minor, regardless of when, where, why, how or how long ago the alleged abuse occurred, we urge you to report such behavior immediately to one of three people whose duty it is to address such matters:
The Provincial Superior, the leader of the Chicago Province, is ultimately responsible for all the members, ministries and activities of the Society of the Divine Word in the Midwest and Eastern United States, Canada and the Caribbean.
Chicago Province Center
P.O. Box 6038
Techny, IL 60082-6038
The Chairperson of the Sexual Abuse Review Board convenes the independent Board composed of lawyers, law enforcement and other trained professionals that review and advise the Province administration on all matters related to incidents of sexual abuse, prevention of abuse and the protection of children.
Sexual Abuse Review Board
Robert E. Walsh, Chairperson
The Victim Assistance Coordinator provides assessment and counseling services. For victims of clergy sexual abuse, the counseling service facilitates the Society of the Divine Word’s abuse reporting and requests for assistance.
John Lucas, Counselor
How to Report Sexual Abuse
Any adult reporting sexual abuse as a minor or any minor abused by a member of the Society of the Divine Word should contact one or more of the individuals / offices noted above for assistance. The allegation will be handled with the strictest confidentiality and utmost sensitivity, and reported to the proper civil authorities in accord with prevailing laws and statutes.
The person reporting the sexual abuse of a minor is free to report the incident directly to the appropriate local, county / and or state law enforcement authorities.
If there is suspicion or knowledge that a child is currently being abused, the one so informed should immediately notify the proper civil authorities. In Illinois, call the Department of Children and Family Services Child Abuse Hotline: 800–252–2873; outside Illinois call 217–524–2606 for help in locating the proper authority of the state / country in which the alleged abuse is occurring.
How the Society of the Divine Word Responds to an Allegation
The Society of the Divine Word takes all allegations of sexual abuse of a minor very seriously. Upon receiving such an allegation, the Provincial Superior of the Chicago Province will initiate several steps in response to the allegation.
1. Any new allegation of sexual abuse of a minor that may have been committed by a Member or other agent of the Province shall be promptly reported to civil authorities in the jurisdiction in which the alleged incident occurred.
A. Allegations of sexual abuse of a minor will be reported to civil authorities regardless of whether the accused Member is living or dead, or whether he is a current or former Member of the Province.
B. Allegations of sexual abuse of a minor will be reported to civil authorities regardless of whether the alleged victim’s identity is known.
C. Only if the following criteria are present can an exception to the reporting requirement be made:
i. An adult is making the allegation about an incident that that occurred when he or she was a minor and for which the statute of limitations has clearly run its course, and the person objects to having it reported;
ii. State law requirements are followed;
iii. The person was advised of his / her right to report the incident, and
encouraged to do so.
2. Allegations of sexual abuse of a minor will be reported to civil authorities regardless of whether the allegations are believed to be likely to be established at the time they are received.
3. Counseling services will be offered. A trained professional will listen to and offer help to the victim and others affected by the abuse, including the services of appropriate psychological counseling and other resources that may be helpful.
4. The Province, through an independent investigator, will respond swiftly to evaluate and investigate any accusation of sexual abuse of a minor perpetrated by a member of the Society of the Divine Word. Any such investigation will be conducted with respect for any investigation being conducted by civil authorities.
5. Any member of the Society of the Divine Word who has engaged in the sexual abuse of a minor will be permanently removed from any public ministry, and placed in a restricted and supervised environment.
6. This entire matter including the allegation, investigation, response to the victim and restrictions placed on the perpetrator will be presented to the Chicago Province Sexual Abuse Review Board. This independent, interdisciplinary Board of lay professionals advises the Provincial on all matters related to sexual abuse perpetrated by a member of the Chicago Province. All aspects of the Province’s response will be reviewed by the Board in order to determine if further action is advisable.