Mount Angel Abbey and Seminary: A Safe Environment for Children and Young People

When the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People was established by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in 2002, it directed action in all the following matters, for every Catholic church and institution: 

  • Creating a safe environment for children and young people;
  • Healing and reconciliation of victims and survivors;
  • Making prompt and effective response to allegations;
  • Cooperating with civil authorities;
  • Disciplining offenders;
  • Providing for means of accountability for the future to ensure the problem continues to be effectively dealt with.

In the same year, Mount Angel Abbey and Seminary established its own Office of Child Protection and protocols to fully comply with the Charter’s recommendation, and to create a safe environment for minors.

Prevention. The Abbey and Seminary enforce a policy of zero tolerance for child abuse, or abuse of any kind. Whether they seek admission as a monk or seminarian, applicants to Mount Angel Abbey and Seminary must undergo background checks, extensive psychological assessments, interviews with various monastery or seminary officials, and must submit positive recommendations from pastors, employers, and lay people. All participate in rigorous human, spiritual, academic and pastoral formation as they mature and embrace a life and lifestyle of celibacy and chastity, leadership and responsibility, service and accountability. Their readiness is thoroughly evaluated before they are ordained or make their profession of vows. 

Safe environment training. Mount Angel mandated safe environment training for monks, seminarians and employees, and defined responsibilities for making mandatory reports of suspected or alleged child abuse directly to civil authorities. These protocols were reviewed and continue to be reviewed and updated by our General Counsel and by Praesidium, an outside accrediting agency that specializes in identifying the root causes of child abuse, and in providing the best procedures and practices to help organizations create a safe environment for minors. 

Dr. Monica Applewhite, Ph.D., a leading practitioner in recognizing and preventing child abuse, is engaged to give presentations to the monks, seminarians, and employees, as part of Mount Angel’s on-going education program. Beginning with the 2018-19 academic year, seminarians will participate in the Armatus online abuse prevention training program sponsored by Praesidium. These courses include specific learning objectives, interactivity, and a content mastery quiz. The Armatus program will allow the seminary to track each seminarian’s course completion and generate compliance reports. 

Accountability. Also in 2002, Mount Angel formed the Abbey Review Board, which is composed of monks and lay men and woman under the guidance of Dr. Elizabeth Farley, the Coordinator of the Office of Child Protection. Dr. Farley oversees the program, advises on educational requirements for the hilltop community, is prepared to address complaints of child abuse, if and when they arise, and to recommend ways to foster healing and reconciliation, when needed. 

Discipline. Monks, seminarians and employees know that any violation of the Abbey’s policy on child protection, depending on the scope of the violation, could result in a letter of correction, mandatory counseling, dismissal from the monastery or seminary, or termination of employment.