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Safeguarding God's Children

The Pastoral Policy of the Evangelical Catholic Church


Professional Guidelines, Ethics and Standards


All ministerial relationships within a church-related setting require that the highest ethical standards of conduct be maintained at all times and in all relevant areas. These include personal and professional interactions, program leadership, protection of privacy, and response to misconduct.

Personal and Professional Interactions

Role Integrity. Church ministers must be faithful to the Church and to their individual ministerial roles. These roles possess inherent power with corresponding obligations, responsibilities and limitations.

Church ministers must recognize that there is power inherent in their roles that may afford influence over another.  They must be sensitive to that relative power and never use it inappropriately.  Church ministers must protect the interests of those with lesser power, especially minors or those mentally, physically or emotionally incapacitated.

Sexualized interactions with persons whom we serve are never part of the ministerial role.  Clergy who are in a marital commitment are called to witness their fidelity to their spouses.  Clergy and Religious who have made their commitment to celibacy are called to witness their charism in all relationships. Clergy who are single are called to witness their self-chastity and respect for those whom they date and have established a relationship with.

Church ministers must protect the confidentiality and privacy rights of others. Church ministers must be sensitive to the potential problems inherent in dual relationships.

Conduct in Pastoral Counseling. Pastoral counseling is a specific type of interaction with its own corresponding guidelines. Pastoral counseling includes both professional pastoral counseling and short-term pastoral counseling engaged in by qualified clergy and other qualified individuals for whom this is part of their ministry.

It must always be clear to both the Church minister and the counselee that a counseling relationship is in process. Counseling relationships are characterized by meetings at appropriate times and places, supported by a calendar record of contacts. Counseling should not occur at times or places that would be ambiguous or misleading to the counselee.

Church ministers should avoid beginning a pastoral counseling relationship with someone with whom they have a preexisting business, professional, or social relationship. Also, Church ministers must respect existing counseling relationships with another professional, and must not start another counseling relationship that would lead to confusion or duplication.

Church ministers must be cognizant at all times of the significance of boundaries in counseling relationships. Church ministers should avoid unnecessary social contact with counselees during the course of counseling. Physical contact with counselees can be misconstrued and should be avoided. Church ministers must never engage in sexual conduct with those whom they counsel.

Church ministers must not disclose information learned from counseling sessions. In beginning what is clearly a counseling relationship, the Church minister must inform the counselee of confidentiality and the limits of confidentiality should a counselee disclose intent to put self and/or others in imminent danger. In such cases, the Church minister must contact the necessary authorities, with or without consultation and assistance from other professionals, with or without the permission of the counselee.

When a Church minister’s independent judgment is compromised (e.g., by prior or concurrent personal or professional relationships, when he or she becomes personally involved, or when he or she becomes an advocate for one person against another), the Church minister must advise the party/parties that he or she can no longer provide counseling and make a referral to other counselors.

Any form of pastoral counseling requires knowing the limits of one’s competence, and making appropriate referrals as needed. Church ministers, who leave their current positions while conducting counseling with parishioners, are expected to offer appropriate referrals for continued care.

Conduct with Minors. All interactions with minors deserve special attention. Minors should always be viewed, whether in a social or ministerial situation, as “restricted individuals;” that is, they do not have the capacity to make free and voluntary decisions. Wherever they are and whatever they do should be with the explicit knowledge of their parents or guardian

In general, two adults should be present in situations involving minors, with the exception of sacramental confession. Church ministers should observe the following guidelines:

a. When meeting with a minor, the office door should have a window or be left open. Do not meet with a minor if there are no other adults in the general vicinity.

b. Never visit a minor’s home without at least one other adult present.

c. Avoid driving alone with a minor on a regular basis, or for great distances.

d. All outings with minors, such as retreats, youth trips, sports-related activities, and overnight trips, require at least two adults.

e. Sleeping quarters may not be shared with minors for any reason.

f. Locker rooms or other dressing areas must not be shared with minors unless another adult is present.

g. Avoid accompanying children into restrooms without another adult present, unless it is unavoidable.

h. A minor should be allowed only in the public section of a rectory and only when another adult is present.

Physical force or demeaning language should not be employed in disciplining minors. Physical force should only be used to protect oneself,
another innocent party, or a child who is out of control.  Caution must be exercised in using physical displays of affection, such as hugging, with minors. This gesture has different meanings for different people. Consider the age of the child, the situation, the setting, and your relationship with the child in all cases, as well as whose needs are being

Adult chaperones of youth group activities should maintain a professional presence at all times. Activities, topics or vocabulary that cannot comfortably or appropriately be used in the presence of parents or another adult should not be employed with minors.

Adults are prohibited from supplying or serving alcohol or any controlled substance to minors. Furthermore, alcohol should never beconsumed in the presence of one or more minors by an adult who is functioning in an official capacity with minors.

Leadership Responsibilities

Just Treatment. Church ministers must exercise just treatment of all persons whom they encounter.

Church ministers shall seek to relate to all people with respect, sensitivity and reverence. Meetings are to be conducted with patience and courtesy toward the views of others and in an environment where it is safe for others to offer constructive criticism.

Church ministers shall seek to empower others, supporting each person to live the life to which God calls them. They are to respect the different talents people bring to the Church. Personnel and other administrative decisions made by Church ministers should not only meet civil and canon law obligations, but must reflect Catholic social teachings.

Protection of Privacy

Confidentiality. Persons who come to a Church minister, for assistance or advice, are entering a relationship marked by respect, trust, and

Information disclosed to a Church minister during the course of counseling, advising, spiritual direction, or any other professional contact shall be held in strictest confidence.

The Church minister is required to safeguard the confidentiality of any notes, files, or computer records pertaining to professional contacts.

If consultation with another professional becomes necessary, care should be taken to protect the identity of individuals and limit the content of the information to be shared. The minister must consider what information needs to be share, with whom, and the rationale for disclosure. The other professional must be bound by the same principles of confidentiality.

Response to Misconduct

Misconduct of an Illegal Nature. Church ministers are required to report, to both the proper civil and Church authorities, any behavior by another Church minister where there is a credible suspicion of illegal conduct.

Ethical Misconduct. Church ministers must notify their supervisors or, if needed, other Church authorities of ethical misconduct by another Church minister.

Sexual Misconduct. Church ministers must be knowledgeable of the laws of their State regarding sexual assault, sexual abuse, and sexual exploitation, and the reporting requirements of the Church and of civil law which apply to such misconduct.


National Church Office
Post Office Box 178388  Chicago Illinois  60617-8388
(T)  773-721-5383   (F)  773-721-2581