I hope and pray that this will find you doing well, having a blessed Easter season and staying safe and virus-free. I imagine that your experience of these days, like my own, is both troubling and perplexing. My prayer is that somehow the current situation leads to people turning to God in a fuller, more whole-hearted way.
The last time many of you heard from us was with the news of Jamie Treadwell having left us amidst allegations of inappropriate behavior with children. Some of you are aware that, following Jamie’s departure and a program broadcast on Michigan Radio, the name of Ed Conlin was raised in connection with serious events which occurred two decades ago in West Belfast. They led to his dismissal from the youth organization that he worked for at that time. We want you to know that we are working on this situation, including engaging the aggrieved parties and others involved as best as we are able to at this time during lockdown, and we will communicate more about this in the future.
We regret profoundly the harm, trouble and shame that this situation has brought and we sincerely solicit your prayers and help as we endeavor to regain your confidence and trust. Needless to say, this has been an extremely difficult time for us and has led to a lot of soul searching by the Servants of the Word.
A sober assessment of these situations has revealed areas for improvement in our safeguarding policies and procedures for brothers working with youth and children. To this end, we are committed to learning what we need to and to taking new measures or accomplishing ones that we already had in process.
I would like to share with you some of the first steps we have taken toward redressing the situation.
- We will continue our efforts to reach out to aggrieved parties in whatever ways seem appropriate.
- We have updated our Child Protection Policy (CPP) and it is now available in English https://servantsoftheword.org/child-protection-policy and in Spanish https://siervosdelapalabra.org/politica-de-proteccion-de-menores-internacional
- We have begun the process of training all of our brothers in the revised CPP. The first meeting in North America was attended by 37 brothers and was held on 29th February 2020. The next North American session was tentatively scheduled for 18th April 2020, but had to be cancelled because of the virus. We will reschedule as soon as possible. The Asian region also had their first session a month ago.
- Each region of the Servants of the Word will establish an external Review Board. These boards will examine, review and advise on any future child protection issue or other allegation made regarding the Servants of the Word or one of its brothers. It will also review the implementation of our revised CPP and advise on future revisions. It will take some time to put these Review Boards in place and we will keep you informed as this process progresses.
- The Sword of the Spirit, in conjunction with the Servants of the Word, is commissioning an independent review of our handling of child protection cases over the past years.
- We are in the process of retaining “Praesidium” (https://website.praesidiuminc.com/wp/) a premiere external organization in the US which consults with Religious Congregations on Child Protection, to help us review our CPP and standard operating procedures.
- We are in the process of setting up a dedicated phone number that people can call if they have concerns about any of our brothers.
Let me conclude by saying that the safety of the children and youth entrusted to us continues to be of paramount importance to us and we want to make sure that everyone involved experiences that. We hope these measures will be the beginning of a process of rebuilding trust among all of you whom we serve. We will keep you informed as we take the next steps.
I welcome any questions, feedback or input you may have; we are keenly aware of the need for help to get this area right. Thank you for your help and your prayers.
Your brother in Christ,