Safe Environments Overview

Read an overview of Safe Environments (PDF)

For questions or concerns relating to Safe Environments, Background Checks, VIRTUS Awareness Training, Resources for Victims of Abuse or Mandated Reporting, please contact

Erin Neil
(203) 416-1406
(203) 650-3265

To schedule a VIRTUS facilitator to come onsite to conduct a live training at your school or parish

Bernadette Griffin, Safe Environment Program Assistant
Office (203) 416-1650
Cell (475) 988-5366

Welcome    Contact    Safe Environment Training (VIRTUS Registration & Re-Certification)    Dallas Charter

Q & A    Essential Norms    2015 Safe Environments Handbook    Report an Incident    Background Checks   

Mandated Reporting    Updates    List of Accused Clerics    Continuing Education Opportunities   


Read our annual updates directly below or click here for our News Archive.


Bishop places Fr. Stephen DeLuca on Administrative Leave

Click to read full text of Bishop Caggiano’s letter

BRIDGEPORT (Saturday January 31)— Bishop Frank J. Caggiano has placed Fr. Stephen DeLuca, a retired priest of the Diocese of Bridgeport, on administrative leave and has removed his faculties to exercise any and all forms of public ministry as a priest.

The decision was made after the Diocesan Sexual Misconduct Review Board ruled that there is credible evidence of an incident of child abuse on the part of Fr. Deluca more than 30 years ago. A letter to the parishes where Fr. Deluca was assigned as a priest will be read at all Masses this weekend. An abbreviated announcement will also be made in parishes where Fr. DeLuca was in residence during his nearly 50 years as a priest.

“During this difficult time, we first and foremost ask your prayers for the victim and the victim's family – and for all victims of sexual abuse--that they may find healing. In the spirit of reconciliation, we also ask that you pray for Fr. DeLuca and for our Church that we may move forward in our sacred obligation to protect the children, youth and vulnerable adults in our community,” said Bishop Caggiano.

June 2016

November, 2014

My Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

As the USCCB Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People (the “Charter”) requires, the Diocese of Bridgeport is re-promulgating its list of credibly accused clergy.

This list is published both ensure the ongoing protection of our children, youth and vulnerable adults and to assist in the healing of victims of clergy sexual abuse. In the interest of full transparency, we have included in this list both living and deceased clerics who were credibly accused of abuse or where the death of the cleric prevented further investigation of the alleged claims.

Both in keeping with the Charter’s provisions and out of a spirit of justice, I have not included in this list the names of those clerics who were both accused of sexual abuse and the allegation was found not to be credible. I have also not included in this list any cleric whose investigation has been impeded by judicial procedures outside of our control.

The sexual abuse of minors has created a great wound in the Church that must be healed through the Church’s credible and sustained efforts to ensure that all children, youth and vulnerable adults entrusted to its care are always kept safe and given the opportunity to grow in faith and love. To those victims who seek healing from the pain they have suffered, I offer my most sincere apology. I pray that with the Lord’s grace, you will feel the healing power of God and find peace and consolation in His Love. I also hope that the publication of this list will in some way help you and all the members of our Diocesan Church to find peace and assurance that we can move forward with confidence.

As the shepherd of the Diocese of Bridgeport, I take my responsibility to protect children very seriously and will continue to do everything that I can to implement our diocesan policies and procedures to ensure a safe environment for the most vulnerable in our midst.

Please be assured of my prayers as we continue down the road of recovery and healing with the strength of God’s love.

Sincerely yours in Christ,

Most Reverend Frank J. Caggiano
Bishop of Bridgeport


Click to View List of Accused Clerics

Winter 2011

Think First and Stay Safe Training for Parents of Students K-8

Think First and Stay Safe Training for Parents of High School Students 

January 2010

Our Catholic schools and parishes - The Safest Environments

For the past 7 years, the Diocese of Bridgeport has been a leader in child safety. Our Catholic schools and parishes are one of the safest places for children to be. In 2002 the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops created a landmark document called the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People. This document mandates that all Church environments where children may be present are as safe as possible. Every diocese must maintain a Safe Environment program and have a victim assistance coordinator to ensure that every report of suspected abuse of a minor is reported to authorities in compliance with state laws. The Charter requires programs to be in place to prevent abuse including criminal background checks, mandatory abuse prevention training, sexual misconduct policies and standards of conduct that outline safe boundaries working with minors. US dioceses and archdioceses are audited on these safety requirements annually by an independent firm called the Gavin group of Boston.  We are happy to report that the Diocese of Bridgeport completed our 6thindependent audit and we were found to be fully compliant on all articles of the “Charter:” The auditor visited schools and parishes at various locations accross the diocese and spoke to priests, school principals and other staff members to ensure that these programs are fully implemented.   In many cases we have been found to exceed the requirements of the Charter.

30,000 members of the clergy, lay employees, volunteers and independent contractors have gone through a criminal background check. Over 65,000 adults and children received live training and 40,000 parents and other adults received informational brochures and educational materials on the prevention and reporting of child sexual abuse. This represents approximately a quarter of all Catholics in our diocese who we have reached through these efforts. 

Fingerprints and background checks have been required in public and private schools however it is rare to find safety policies and background check requirements that include all adults who come in contact with children during their school day. Parents, coaches, school employees, nurses, para-professionals, and aides are just a few examples. The Safe Enviropnment programs in the Diocese of Bridgeport include all of the above as well as independent contractors such as food service providers, general contractors, painters and after school clubs.  This ensures that no person who may be around children has even one conviction of a sex crime or crime against a child and all of these adults are educated on safe boundaries when working with minors. 

Adults who work or volunteer in any capacity within the Diocese of Bridgeport attend a 3 hour training called VIRTUS Protecting God’s children. The training includes two important videos where participants hear stories from victims and from the offenders.  Participants learn the 10 most common warning signs in offenders and signs in a potential victim of chid sexual abuse. Training includes an overview of the Code of conduct and the requirement that two adults must always be present when children are around. The training also provides adults with CT state laws on mandatory reporting and the phone numbers for reporting suspected abuse of a minor to the Department of Children and Family Services and to the victim assistance coordinator in the Diocese of Bridgeport. The most common feedback we hear at just about every VIRTUS class is that the training is not what they expected and they are often surprised to learn that a predator can be a female, a male or even another child. 29% of all child secual abuse is committed by a family member. We hear over and over that the training should be seen by every parent and grandparent

The Safe Environment program for students is called Think First and Stay Safe. This program has been in place since 2004 and helps children to recognize when they are safe or unsafe and to feel comfortable bringing their concernsand anything they may be confused about to the attention of a trusted adult. Children and youth are taught the most common tricks and lures used by offenders so that they can recognize and report the warnings signs before abuse takes place. Topics include internet and technology safety, sexual abuse prevention, abduction prevention, the risks of social networks, cyber-bullying and texting dangers. A counselor from Catholic Charities, Mrs. Tara Mingione, delivers this powerful presentation each year to ensure a consistent message and students get to know the trainer. Students feel comfortable asking questions that may be critical to their safety and parents can meet the instructor to preview the program in advance of classroom instruction.  Every parent is provided with training information and a parent guide from their school when they enroll their children so that lessons can begin at home.

In the Diocese of Bridgeport the Safe Environment initiative is well integrated in our daily routines and activities.  Implementing this level of security is not always easy and can take time, energy, resources and advance planning but if it prevents even one child from being harmed, it is all worth it.

For more information about any of the Safe Environment programs, please visit our website or contact Erin Neil, L.C.S.W., Director of Safe Environments & Victim assistance coordinator (203) 416-1406.

Fall 2009

Back to School

As a mother, social worker and director of a child sexual abuse prevention program, back to school is on the forefront of my mind. Many of us will soon be entrusting our precious little ones to the care and supervision of others.

I hope that parents will also take some time to call their schools and ask the most important questions concerning safety. An alarming statistic is that there are approx. 40 million survivors of child sexual abuse in the United States and a frightening fact is that child sexual abuse is almost always committed by people we know and trust. Offenders are often well liked, well dressed, well spoken and do not stand out physically from everyone else. They can be male or female and they seek environments with access to children.  There is no exclusive gender, age, sexual orientation, occupation or physical profile to a child molester and they may have children of their own.

Knowing these facts can guide us with asking specific questions that can help prevent abuse from happening!! Parents need to ask every school, parish, and athletic program their child participates in….

Is a criminal background check or fingerprints required for EVERY adult who may come in contact with my child. It is important to be specific… is it  required of  every employee, coach, referee, member of the clergy, afterschool tutors, school nurses, social workers, para-professionals, teachers, substitutes, classroom aides, janitors, bus drivers, assistants and parent volunteers? Are there any exceptions to this? What about landscapers and other independent contractors routinely on school property?

Preventing child sexual abuse requires carefully considering every adult in the environment, not just those who work directly with children.  The law requires background checks for many adults who work with children and mandatory reporting of suspected abuse to civil authorities but it is important to be sure that every person your child encounters throughout their day is safe and knows how to make a report of abuse to civil authorities. Since we are likely to know the offender, this can make it difficult to believe that abuse is happening and it makes it easier for him or her to continue harming kids. The offender has taken great steps to gain everyone’s trust for this purpose. Education is critical with helping adults  to recognize inappropriate behaviors and warning signs and to report suspected abuse no matter how well liked or well known the person may be.

Is there a zero tolerance policy so that no one may work or volunteer any length of time if there is even one single verified act of sexual abuse against a child?

Sex offenders may have multiple victims and many repeat their crime when give the opportunity.   We must make environments where children are present zero opportunity.

Do you provide prevention training for children and adults?

Not every person who commits crimes against children is reported to civil authorities or has been convicted. Adults need to be made aware of the earliest warning signs in offenders through awareness training and internal policies. A Code of Conduct can play a significant role in communicating high standards of safety and appropriate boundaries when working with minors. It can also help to protect adults who work with children from false allegations.

Once parents attend VIRTUS training I hear over and over again that every parent should do. Training is so important because makes it less likely that abuse will go unnoticed or unreported.

The Catholic schools in the Diocese of Bridgeport are implementing one of the most comprehensive safety programs that exist. The diocese provides an annual child abuse prevention program for children and parents. Children k-12 learn to identify and avoid the most common tricks employed by child molesters in person and online.  The VIRTUS program instructs adults on the warning signs, safe boundaries when working with minors and how to report abuse to civil authorities.  VIRTUS is required of all priests, deacons, seminarians, lay employees, volunteers, all parent volunteers, and even our independent contractors. Every adult is instructed to report any suspicion of abuse of a minor to the CT Department of Children and Family Services within 12 hours. Close to 60,000 adults and children to date completed a live training program and an additional 40,000 people were reached through informational brochures and parent guides.  The more people who are cleared through a criminal background check and the more people we can make aware of the warning signs, the safer our children will be.  

For more information about the Safe Environment programs for adults, parents and children please visit

Erin Neil, L.C.S.W., Director of Safe Environments & Victim Assistance Coordinator

Diocese of Bridgeport

Summer 2009

2008 Audit Report on U.S. Dioceses Issued
Every year dioceses across the United States undergo an external compliance audit on the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People to ensure that each diocese continues to maintain the safest possible environments for children.

The Diocese of Bridgeport was found to be fully compliant in 2008. In fact, we have been found compliant every year since the audits began in 2003.

The 2008 report (posted now on notes that the Catholic Church in the United States:

  • Trained more than 1.8 million clergy, employees, and volunteers in parishes in how to create safe environments and prevent child sexual abuse.
  • Prepared more than 5.7 million children to recognize abuse and protect themselves.
  • Ran background checks on more the 1,535,000 volunteers and employees, 164,000 educators, 51,000 clerics, and 4,955 candidates for ordination.

In the Diocese of Bridgeport we have held more than 1,700 Safe Environment awareness training sessions for adults and children training more than 60,000 people. We distributed 40,000 training materials including brochures, mandated reporting information, and parent guides so that parents can learn at home and reinforce these safety lessons with their children on an ongoing basis. We also conducted more than 20,000 criminal background checks.

Summer Safety Tips for Parents
Summer is here, and kids have a lot more free time. Staying in touch with friends over summer months may include texting, e-mailing, increased time spent on the Internet, and even live Internet gaming, which is more popular than ever.

Be aware of the risks of texting. Talk to your child often about safety online and offline and discuss rules for appropriate conduct when using any form of technology. If your child has a cellphone that is capable of taking videos or images (most have this capability), discuss the danger and potential consequences of taking inappropriate images of someone including pictures or videos of themselves without clothing. This is often referred to as "sexting" and usually starts as a dare or a joke. These self-created images are appearing at an alarming rate with youth on social networking sites.

Reinforce with your child that they should never assume any text, e-mail, or video is private. As soon as a text message, photo, or video is sent, it can’t be erased or taken back. Treat any image and online communication as if it will exist in cyber-space forever.

If you or your child receives an inappropriate image on the Internet or cell phone, call your local police and do not forward it on to anyone. If a minor or an adult forwards an image containing a nude picture or video of a minor, he/she becomes the sender of child pornography, which is against the law.

Remind children that images, blog postings, social networking sites, and instant messages have future consequences, including the possibility of a school official viewing what they have posted; law enforcement, college admission offices, and even future employers may also be looking.

Be aware of the risks of online gaming. It is important to be aware of the ratings (many online games contain violence and adult content). Parents can look into the safeguards and privacy options that are available for any Internet or “live” game your child may have interest in: visit

How to Report
If you learn of or observe something inappropriate on a social networking or Internet gaming site, there is usually a “REPORT ABUSE” or “PARENT” tab where you can report activity and have it removed. Depending on what you have observed, you may also need to contact law enforcement.

There is also a mechanism for reporting inappropriate activity online. The U.S. Congress-mandated "Cyber-Tipline" is a means for reporting crimes against children online. Reports may be made 24-hours a day, 7 days a week online at or by calling toll-free (800) 843-5678.

April 2009

April is Child Abuse Prevention Month
It is most appropriate that Child Abuse Prevention Month is held during the Easter season. There is no better time than Easter to celebrate the protection of our most valuable gift from God – our children.

For information on how you can become more informed and involved in keeping our children safe by attending a local workshop on child safety and abuse prevention, please speak with your parish Safe Environment coordinator or call me, Erin Neil, L.C.S.W., director of Safe Environments and victim assistance coordinator for the Diocese of Bridgeport: 416-1406

Five Steps
All clergy, employees, volunteers, and independent contractors in the Diocese of Bridgeport learn about child abuse prevention through the VIRTUS program and are required to complete a criminal background check through their school or parish office. All parents and parishioners are welcome and encouraged to participate in this free child abuse awareness and prevention program.

VIRTUS training details five steps to prevent child sexual abuse:

  1. Know the early warning signs of an inappropriate relationship with a child and stop abuse before it happens! (VIRTUS teaches you to spot these warnings.)
  2. Control access to children by ensuring a criminal background check is completed on every employee, volunteer, and independent contractor in schools and parishes.
  3. Monitor all programs by ensuring that two or more trained and background-checked adults are present at all times when minors are participating.
  4. Be aware of where your children spend their time, especially online!
  5. Communicate any early concern you have to your pastor and to one of our two victim assistance coordinators: Erin Neil: 416-1406 or (cell) 650-3265, and Bill Hoey: 241-0987.

For a schedule of upcoming VIRTUS classes, visit the website:

Be Vigilant
It is vitally important that we are constantly vigilant – that we always observe the behaviors of those who interact with children and communicate our concerns to the appropriate parties. Sometimes this means communicating our safety concerns to our children.

Parents must also listen carefully to their children and observe both their children’s activities and the behavior of older children and adults who interact with them. When children exhibit dramatic behavioral changes, adults must find out what caused the changes. Being aware of what’s happening with our children means talking to, listening to, and observing them at every opportunity.

Prevent Abuse by Making a Call!
Please do not let child abuse go un-reported – help is available! If you or someone you know has been a victim of abuse by any person from the Church, help is available. Child sexual abuse is never a child’s fault. Please contact one of our victim assistance coordinators: Erin Neil: 650-3265 and Bill Hoey: 241-0987.

If you have any reason to suspect that a child has been abused or could be in danger of abuse, please do not wait! Immediately contact one of our victim assistance coordinators and the State of Connecticut’s Child Abuse & Neglect Hotline: (800) 842-2288.

July 2008

Focus on Internet Safety
On April 29, to close our observance of Child Abuse Awareness and Prevention month, the Office of Safe Environments, together with the Health and Safety Committee overseen by Marie Keogh, director of emergency services, hosted an Internet Safety presentation conducted by New Haven F.B.I. Supervisory Special Agent Tom Lawler.

This presentation helped to raise our awareness of the problem of Internet crimes, with special attention on crimes involving children and crimes involving Internet fraud. It was alarming to learn that, in Connecticut, approximately one person every week is arrested for Internet crimes.

Who are the most at risk online? While anyone using the Internet may be at risk for their personal safety or fraud, those who are unaware of the risks are the MOST vulnerable. Kids often feel as if they are anonymous online and are more likely to engage in conversations and risk taking that they may not regularly take in person. Adults are cautioned to check with the Better Business Bureau ( first before falling for any "once in a lifetime opportunity" or any "get rich quick" offer.

Many adults in our state become victims of Internet fraud. Approximately 12 complaints involving Internet fraud are reported weekly to the New Haven FBI.

Internet Safety Tips for Parents
The Number One rule on Internet safety is always to keep the computer out of a child's bedroom and to supervise Internet use in a public area of the home during scheduled times.

Parents should stay updated on the current threats to children, and an excellent resource is where new topics on child sexual abuse prevention are posted monthly.

Tell your child never to post identifying information or arrange to meet with someone they met online. Even a child's e-mail address may give away identifying information about them. And caution children never to make threats or get into fights online, and never take any photographs and post them.

Cyber-bullying and online harassment are becoming an increasing problem among children and teenagers. Talk to your child about appropriate behavior and good manners online just as you would encourage kind and appropriate communication with those whom they meet in person. This is called "netiquette."

Parents can install content filters, website filters, virus scans, firewalls, or keystroke logging software on their home computers. Parents are strongly encouraged to check their child's web browser history.

If you identify inappropriate content directed toward a minor online, you should contact your local police or the FBI office in New Haven at (203) 777-6311. Don't delete it!

Other recommended resources on Internet safety and preventing crimes against children: This website comes highly recommended by the FBI and it contains free online safety programs for children and youth of all ages.

April 2008

April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month: Wear a Blue Ribbon!
On April 4, 1983 in the wake of rising reports of child abuse in the United States, President Ronald Reagan declared April as National Child Abuse Prevention Month. Since then, child abuse and neglect awareness activities have been promoted across the country during April of each year.

In 1989, a concerned grandmother, Bonnie Finney, of Norfolk, VA, took a stand against child abuse after experiencing the death of her grandson. She tied a symbolic blue ribbon to her van to encourage awareness and involvement of everyone in the community to prevent abuse before it starts. During the past 19 years, the blue ribbon has become a national symbol of child abuse awareness and prevention education.

The statistics surrounding child sexual abuse in the United States are shocking:

  • 1 in 5 girls is sexually abused before the age of 18
  • 1 in 10 boys is sexually abused before the age of 18
  • 1 in 5 children are solicited sexually while on the internet
  • An estimated 40 million survivors of childhood sexual abuse exist in America today
  • Approx. 29% of victims are abused by a family member
  • Approx. 60% are abused by someone the family knows and trusts
  • Only 11% of child sexual abuse is committed by strangers

With the passage of the 2002 U.S. Bishop's Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People the Catholic Church launched the largest child sexual abuse prevention campaign in the history of the United States, training millions of adults and children to recognize early warning signs of inappropriate behavior in order to prevent abuse before it starts.

In the Diocese of Bridgeport, the VIRTUS Protecting God's Children program is used to train all Clergy, Employees, Volunteers, and even our vendors and Independent Contractors. A trained counselor from Catholic Charities delivers the Child Lures Think First and Stay Safe Program to our elementary school students and the Personal Safety Training program for High School Youth which emphasizes internet safety and how to make a report of suspected abuse to proper authorities.

Download (in Microsoft Word) Parish Resources for Child Abuse Awareness Month, including bulletin announcements and prayer petitions

During the month of April, The Office of Safe Environments is sponsoring and promoting a variety of critical child safety programs, free of charge. Learn what you can do to protect children from the pain and suffering from abuse because one victim is simply one too many (spaces are limited, please call early to reserve a space):

VIRTUS Protecting God's Children
Download updated list of dates, places, and times for training in Microsoft Word Format

VIRTUS for New Facilitators
Friday, April 11, 8:30 a.m.-4 p.m. Become certified as a volunteer facilitator to teach the VIRTUS program in your own school or parish. This is a wonderful opportunity to make a difference in your community and in the life of a child! English speaking and Bi-Lingual Facilitators are needed. Contact Erin Neil for details: 416-1406 or email .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

Friday, April 18, 2-3 p.m., Catholic Center. Learn how to talk to children and pre-teens in a non-threatening way about child sexual abuse prevention and internet safety For all parents with children in K-8. Contact Tara Mingione for details: (203) 416-1327 or e-mail .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

Friday, April 25, 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m., Catholic Center. Learn about the problem of bullying, cyber-bullying and school violence. Learn the basics and identify early warning signs. Contact Erin Neil for details: 416-1406 or email: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

F.B.I. SPECIAL AGENT TOM LAWLER speaking on "The Dark Side of the Internet": Tuesday, April 29, 2-3 p.m., Catholic Center. Learn what you need to know about Sexual predators on the internet, the risks associated with Social Networking sites, and the latest in frauds and scams on the internet from F.B.I. Special Agent Tom Lawlor.

October 2007

Halloween Safety Tips
As your little ghosts and goblins set out for the neighborhoods in search of candy and special treats, please keep in mind some important safety tips that will help make this Halloween as safe as possible for them.

When trick or treating or attending parties at local halls, haunted houses, and shopping centers, remember that nothing is safer than your supervision. If you have made a decision to permit your child to trick or treat in your neighborhood and you will not be going with them, it is important that your child goes with a group and that an older teenage sibling is with them at all times.

Let children know that they should never go into the homes or up to an approaching car to get treats or candy, no matter what the person says. Practice a few scenarios with them to be sure they understand. Children should always wait until they get home to sample the candy so that you may inspect everything.

Set a route and reinforce that they must stick to this route and stay in well-lit areas.

Place emergency identification tags inside clothing and have your child carry a fully-charged cell phone and a flashlight with new batteries at all times.

Costumes should have large holes for eyes that give your child full view of his or her surroundings. Your child should be visible to others. Reflective tape placed on costumes or candy bags is an inexpensive way to make sure that your child is visible to traffic.

Finally, review the safety tips you and your child learned in the Child Lures Prevention Think First & Stay Safe Program.

Come to the Halloween Safety Program October 29
There will be a special safety program held at the Catholic Center, Bridgeport, for parents and grandparents to view the Think First & Stay Safe Program on Monday, October 29, from 6:00-7:30 p.m. Parents will learn to talk with their child or teenager about early warning signs in unsafe adults, abduction prevention, and sexual abuse prevention in an age-appropriate and non-threatening way. Parent safety guides will be provided to you at no cost.

To reserve a space at this safety program, call 416-1406 or e-mail .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

Have a safe and Happy Halloween!

June 2007

Five years since the landmark Dallas Charter, the Diocese of Bridgeport maintains a Safe Environment though vigilance and hard work.

May 2007

2006 Compliance Audit Released
Last month, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Office for Child and Youth Protection released the results of the 2006 diocesan compliance audits on the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People. The Charter, which our own Bishop William Lori helped to draft, was issued by the bishops in 2002 to reach out to victims of abuse and to create Safe Environments for children and adults alike. The 2006 audits were focused on those dioceses that were found to be non-compliant during the 2005 audits, and for a few dioceses that requested it.

Here in the Diocese of Bridgeport, we were found to be in full compliance with all articles of the Charter for three consecutive years. We are scheduled to undergo our fourth full onsite compliance audit this coming fall.

The Gavin Group, Inc., is the Boston-based firm that conducts the diocesan audits. Bill Gavin, president, observed in a letter this month to the National Review Board:

"Accomplishments have been many and impressive, and demonstrate the willingness of the Bishops and Eparches to do all possible to bring peace and closure to the suffering of past victims and to prevent any further incidents of abuse."

For more information and to view the full audit report, click here.

Not a Current Occurrence
It is clear from the compliance audit that the incidence of sexual abuse of minors by clergy has significantly declined and is a rare occurrence. Reports of abuse have decreased within the past several years, and most reports are of incidents that occurred many years ago.

In the Diocese of Bridgeport, abuse of minors by clergy is not a current occurrence. We have received no reports of abuse by clergy occurring since before the Safe Environment program was founded in 2003. In fact, there has been no report of any single incident occurring even in the 1990's or the 2000's.

The results of the audits demonstrate that outreach to victims and child protection efforts provided by the Catholic Church remain strong and unmatched. Our efforts to protect children here in the Diocese of Bridgeport are comprehensive. The protection of children remains a priority in all of our schools, parishes, and programs.

By the Numbers
At the end of April, we held our 1,000th VIRTUS Protecting God's Children training session on the awareness and prevention of abuse. In addition to VIRTUS, we have held hundreds of Child Lures Prevention programs for parents, children, and youth. This mean that more than 4,000 hours of child abuse prevention training that has taken place right here in the Diocese of Bridgeport in less than four years.

In the State of Connecticut, the Catholic Church has trained a combined total of more than 140,000 adults and youth. Truly, the Church's efforts to protect children are remarkable!

February 2007

Think First and Stay Safe
The Think First and Stay Safe Program continues in all Catholic elementary schools in the Diocese of Bridgeport. Fifteen out of 34 elementary schools have completed a thirdyear- in-a-row of Safe Environment training for students.

Tara Mingione, a counselor with Catholic Charities, is the Safe Environment educator for all students enrolled in the elementary schools and the high schools. Every year, Tara reaches out to well over 11,000 students in grades K-12 on the importance of personal safety - and students are responding.

At Saint James Elementary School in Stratford, three seventh- grade students were assigned a drama project early this year. On their own initiative they decided to use their assignment as an opportunity to promote safety and to teach other students what they are learning from Safe Environment training. One student played a student walking home from school, while another portrayed an unsafe adult who used a common lure or trick in order to get the child come close to the vehicle where a child could be grabbed. The students used an iPod as their lure. The student demonstrated that, by taking two steps back, running in the other direction, and telling a trusted adult immediately, it could help him or her stay out of harm's way.

Various Scenarios
The students are taking this program very seriously. Their questions are thoughtful and contain various scenarios, such as, "What should I do if I am lost in a store?" and "How can I tell if a person is safe?" Tara teaches students that they can tell a person is safe by how they act and what they say, but not by their age, gender, or appearance.

It is clear from the student's level of questioning and by students' conversations that parents are making safety training a priority in the homes. Students are encouraged to practice their refusal skills at home by role playing the different types of lures with their parents.

High School Student Training
Personal Safety Training for high school students will be conducted again in all Catholic high schools this spring. Tara's presentation will include updates and lessons on Internet safety, a discussion on safe and responsible use of social networking sites, and cyber-bullying prevention. For more information on these topics, please visit

June 2006

Three Years of Accomplishments!
June 2006 marks three years since the new Sexual Misconduct Policy was issued and the Safe Environment Program in the Diocese of Bridgeport was launched. Since 2003, we have held 850 child abuse prevention trainings for adults in seven languages using the VIRTUS program, and over 250 parent, children, and youth training sessions using Child Lures Prevention. We also hold routine in-services on mandated reporting, conducted by the Connecticut Department of Children and Family Service.

The Diocese of Bridgeport has trained over 40,000 clergy, employees, volunteers, parents, high school youth, and children on abuse prevention, Internet safety, and reporting requirements. We have reached thousands more through informational brochures, online continuing education, and safety guides sent home to families. Child safety materials and information on how to make a report of suspected abuse are available in every school, parish, and program.

Criminal background checks, awareness training, the Code of Conduct and the Sexual Misconduct Policy have all worked together to make our Diocese a safer place for children and adults.

Is It Working?
A participant of a 2003 VIRTUS training recently asked, "How do we know if our efforts are working?"

One measure of a prevention program is a decline in new incidents of abuse. Since the implementation of the Safe Environment Program in 2003, there have been no new allegations of sexual abuse of a minor by a member of the clergy, a lay employee, or a lay volunteer.

Another measure is the reporting of early warning signs or concerns before they become incidents of abuse. VIRTUS and the Child Lures Prevention Program educate adults and youth to be proactive and report concerns or unsafe situations as soon as they occur. We have great success to report in this area. The Safe Environment Office receives regular reports by volunteers, parents, clergy and even members of the community of their concerns or about unsafe situations in their environment. We have even received reports from small children who go through the Child Lures Program. Adults and children trained to detect and report early signs of a problem help us to respond early before a serious situation can occur.

Background checks have proven effective at screening out individuals with crimes against children in their past from working in our diocese. In recent months, background checks have turned up no hits of any person with a conviction of a sex crime or crime against children in their past.

Finally, the Diocese of Bridgeport has undergone three external compliance audits since 2003 with great success.

We may never be able to stop every incident of abuse, but we know for certain that we are lessening the chance of it occurring, going unnoticed, or going unreported.

News Archive

The New York Times Case | October 09, 2009

For the third year in a row, an independent audit endorses and commends the Safe Environment efforts of the Diocese of Bridgeport to protect children and young people | November 17, 2005

The Diocese of Bridgeport issues a statement on the decision of the Connecticut Supreme Court | November 04, 2005

Protect your children from Internet predators | October 05, 2005

Renewing the commitment of the Diocese of Bridgeport to a Safe Environment, Bishop Lori praises decision of U.S. Bishops to continue on-site audits | June 16, 2004

Bishop Lori praises national reports; reaffirms Church's commitment to response and prevention | February 27, 2004

Moving forward, Diocese of Bridgeport announces "John Jay data," 50-year analysis | February 15, 2004

Diocese of Bridgeport issues statement on former seminarian | January 28, 2004

Official Audit Compliance Report Diocese of Bridgeport, Connecticut Released on January 6, 2004 | January 06, 2004

Independent Audit Finds Diocese of Bridgeport in "Total Compliance" with Dallas Charter | January 06, 2004

Independent Audit Finds Diocese of Bridgeport in "Total Compliance" with Dallas Charter | January 06, 2004

Bishop's Christmas schedule to include visits to three parishes and Catholic Charities outreach | December 12, 2003

Independent Audit Finds Diocese of Bridgeport in Total Compliance with Dallas "Charter" | October 11, 2003

Safe Environment Officials Will Work to Promote Awareness and Healing | July 11, 2003

Bishop Lori issues statement on Vatican approval of Norms | December 13, 2002

Three priests resign in response to allegations of sexual abuse | December 13, 2002

Bishop Lori issues statement on Cardinal Law's resignation | December 13, 2002

U.S. Bishops to meet in Washington November 11-14 | November 11, 2002

Bishop hails Norms as recommitment of Dallas pledge | November 01, 2002

Statement from Bishop Lori on his appointment to the Mixed Commission | October 23, 2002

Bishop addresses Vatican response to the Dallas Charter | October 18, 2002

Diocese of Bridgeport working to achieve fair resolution of claims of sexual abuse | October 17, 2002

Bishop admonishes two priests for withholding information on Lawrence Brett | August 31, 2002

Bishop Lori's Letter to the Faithful on the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People | June 19, 2002

Bishop Lori celebrates special Mass of Healing, Reconciliation, and Atonement | June 07, 2002

Statement by Bishop Lori on draft USCCB Charter | June 04, 2002

Diocese will report all allegations of sexual misconduct with a minor to DCF | May 24, 2002

Letter to parents of students at Saint Theresa Elementary School | May 24, 2002

Statement of the Diocese of Bridgeport regarding Carl Fabbozzi | May 24, 2002

Bishop Lori presided at Funeral Mass of Father Alfred Bietighofer | May 20, 2002

Statement of The Most Reverend William E. Lori, Bishop of Bridgeport, on the tragic death of Father Alfred Bietighofer | May 16, 2002

Bishop William E. Lori establishes Emergency Response Team for Misconduct Cases | May 03, 2002

Bishop Lori named to National Church Committee on Sexual Abuse | May 03, 2002

Priest resigns from Bridgeport parish | April 29, 2002

Priest resigns as pastor of Fairfield parish | April 29, 2002

Bishop Lori's letter read at all Masses Saturday-Sunday, April 20-21, 2002 | April 22, 2002

Bishop Lori issues call for "Reform"; announces results of file review; two priests are removed | April 21, 2002

Bishop William E. Lori announces members of the new Sexual Misconduct Review Board | April 19, 2002

Joint Statement of the Diocese of Bridgeport and the Archdiocese of New York on Joseph DeShan | April 12, 2002

Bishop Lori issues statement on the issue of Sexual Misconduct | March 13, 2002