CHARLESTON, SC - With Bishop Robert Guglielmone's signature, the child sex abuse policy of the Catholic diocese of Charleston underwent three major revisions in an effort to protect children from sexual abuse now and in the future.
"It's a serious problem and we want to address it in anyway we can," says Guglielmone.
The revised policy includes new rules for using social media and prohibits church personnel from using platforms like Facebook and Twitter to have personal communications with children.
Bishop Guglielmone says times have changed since the last revision in 2003 and the policy has to change accordingly.
"It's about nine years since the policy was last officially updated," says the Bishop. "This problem of sexual abuse is a problem that is societal and a problem that is still very much with us."
The three major policy revisions work on restricting one-on-one communication with kids on social media, more comprehensive background checks and the procedure the diocese will take to handle allegations if presented with them in the future.
"If an allegation were to come to us the first thing that we would tell someone is please report this to the civil authorities," says Guglielmone. "That's number one immediately."
After informing police of the situation, the diocese will plan to take up the matter with an internal investigation as well.
But the main priority the new policy is aiming to restrict is personal contact with minors online.
"There are all kinds of possibilities for children to be hurt through the abuse of technology," Guglielmone says.
The Bishop mentioned twitter, facebook and texting as avenues that child predators can take to get what they want. Going forward, all social media interaction between the church, children and their parents will be done in groups and must be about church activities.
"It is a problem," says Darkness to Light COO Jolie Logan. "That's a policy organizations realize that you need to have because one adult with one child... can't happen."
Logan says for the diocese to address this these revisions in their new policy is a step in the right direction.
"You want to be minimizing one adult one child interactions with technology," says Logan. "I would think that a lot of organizations would want to update their policy's and we're glad the Catholic diocese is doing that. We hope that others will follow suit."
Four years ago, the diocese spent millions to settle dozens of abuse claims brought by those who suffered abuse at the hands of priests between the 1960s and the early 1980s. Since the abuse policy was last updated eight years ago, there have been no new cases of children alleging abuse.
Bishop Guglielmone says the new policy will go into effect April 15, 2012 to allow time for priests, staff and teachers to get familiar with the revisions and take training classes on child sex abuse.