Could a Subpoena Possibly be a Good Thing? Yes

Could a Subpoena Possibly be a Good Thing? Yes

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By Father Hao Dinh, Vicar General
& Joshua Bennett, General Counsel

On December 9, the Diocese of San José, along with five other dioceses in California, received administrative subpoenas from the California Attorney General’s office requesting documents related to the mandatory reporting of allegations of sexual misconduct with minors by clergy and laypersons within the Diocese from 1996 to the present.

At first glance, the word “subpoena” might be startling to some people. However, the Diocese of San José views it as another opportunity for us to review our protocols to safeguard all God’s children, bring about justice, and foster healing for those who have suffered from abuse.

Before receiving the subpoena, the Diocese provided the Attorney General with more than a thousand documents that did not affect the privacy rights of victims/survivors or disregard state and federal labor laws regarding personnel files and volunteer records. These documents were provided in response to the statewide administrative review initiated by the Attorney General in May 2019.

We, the Diocese of San José, believe that protecting all children, youth, and vulnerable adults and bringing about justice, reconciliation, and healing to all victims/survivors is our sacred duty. When victims/survivors reach out to us, we are committed to accompanying them on a lifetime of healing. We maintain confidentiality for all who report past misconduct while also strongly encouraging them to share their stories with law enforcement.

We have a responsibility to protect the privacy and legal rights of victims/survivors, lay employees, lay volunteers, and clergy. In this sense, a subpoena may be good and preferable to an informal request for documents without legal protection. It supports our shared goal of ensuring that the safeguards in place for our children are working as they should while protecting the privacy rights of victims/survivors and complying with state and federal labor laws.

We believe that by learning from the past, we can bring about true healing for victims/survivors and our Church. We published our credibly accused clergy list last year and updated and expanded it six months ago after a thorough independent review of diocesan records.

We provide ongoing comprehensive services and care to victims/survivors of sexual abuse and encourage anyone who has not previously come forward to do so, first, by contacting the local authorities: police department or sheriff’s office; and second, by making a report to our Office for the Protection of Children and Vulnerable Adults, toll-free at (844) 372-1691 or online via a third-party site, opcva.ethicspoint.com.

We work tirelessly to ensure a safe environment for all God’s children. We are vigorous in our efforts to prevent the devastating sin of sexual abuse by promoting awareness, requiring accountability, and demonstrating transparency.

Every bishop, priest, deacon, employee, and volunteer, who works with children or vulnerable adults, must undergo a criminal background check, complete safe environment training every three years, and adhere to an established code of conduct.

All Catholic schools and parish faith formation programs offer annual age-appropriate training for students on interpersonal safety and sexual abuse prevention.

We undergo an annual independent audit to ensure full compliance with the articles of protection outlined in the national Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People and the Essential Norms and Statement of Commitment. We have passed this audit every year since its inception in 2002.

We believe in doing the right thing. We strictly adhere to a zero-tolerance policy and promptly notify law enforcement and child protective services when abuse is reported, following mandated reporter laws. We cooperate with law enforcement during any necessary investigation.

We will not be complacent. We pledge to continue working tirelessly to provide safe and nurturing environments for all and fostering a path of healing and reconciliation for those who have suffered abuse.

Learn more about what the Diocese of San José has done and is doing in the wake of the clergy abuse scandal by visiting www.dsj.org/safe-environment/promise-to-protect-pledge-to-heal.