Pittsburgh Bishop Zubik creates diocesan department to address sex abuse claims | TribLIVE.com

Pittsburgh Bishop Zubik creates diocesan department to address sex abuse claims

Tom Davidson

Pittsburgh Bishop David A. Zubik on Thursday announced the formation of a new diocesan department to respond to sexual abuse claims and make good on promises he outlined in a pastoral letter released earlier this month.

The Secretariat for the Protection of Children, Youth and Vulnerable Adults will begin work Monday.

“This new secretariat guarantees that the concerns of victims and our efforts to prevent abuse will be considered at every top-level meeting of diocesan leadership,” Zubik said in a statement. “People who once responded to child sexual abuse in different departments will now work together. … We will also add new services to assist victim-survivors in spiritual recovery and to keep our communities safe.”

In creating the secretariat, Zubik announced these diocesan staffers who will be a part of it:

  • Jane Sarra will lead the department. Sarra has a clinical background, including an early career as a nurse practitioner, and she’s served in various executive health care leadership positions locally and nationally, according to a news release. A major focus of her work has been developing effective compliance training and educational programs, which involved working with government investigations and law enforcement officials. She joined the Diocese in 2016 as the director of mission integration.
  • Rita Flaherty, a licensed social worker who has assisted victims of clergy sexual abuse since 1993, will continue in that role as director of the Office for Victims’ Assistance within the secretariat. The Office for Victims’ Assistance staffs the diocesan hotline that receives calls about allegations of abuse, holds the first conversation with those who bring such allegations and facilitates access to counseling from a licensed therapist of the victim-survivor’s choice.
  • Mimika Garesché, a spiritual director with experience assisting victims-survivors of sexual abuse, will be director of the new Office for Accompaniment. In addition to more than 20 years of work in this field, she has a certificate in spiritual direction and directed retreats, as well as a master of arts in theology/Christian spirituality, from Creighton University. Garesché will connect victim-survivors with resources to help in spiritual recovery and guide parishes in creating a welcoming environment for those who have been abused. Among the new initiatives she will develop are spiritual support groups for victims-survivors. Garesché joined the diocesan staff in 2015 as director of spiritual formation for pastoral leadership, providing clergy and lay leaders with the training and support necessary to lead others deeper into the faith.
  • Phyllis Haney will be director of the Office for Compliance, continuing 15 years of diocesan programs for child protection. Haney will continue her work with safe environment coordinators in parishes, schools and diocesan institutions to maintain compliance with diocesan safe environment policies and the U.S. bishops’ Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People. The office facilitates child protection training and enforces background checks for all clergy, staff and volunteers, including clearances from the Pennsylvania State Police, the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services and the FBI. This office will also work to ensure that students in Catholic schools and religious education programs continue to be trained to recognize the signs of abuse and how to report it, according to a news release.

Creation of the secretariat and the appointments made fulfill promises made in “The Church Healing,” a pastoral letter Zubik released March 4, the bishop said in a news release.

In his pastoral letter, he also pledged to hire a law enforcement professional for a new Office for Investigations and Monitoring by Sept. 1.

Tom Davidson is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Tom at 724-226-4715, [email protected] or via Twitter .

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