Background Checks

Background Check

Who needs a background check?

In this diocese certain individuals are specifically obligated to comply with Safe Environment requirements, which include background checks.  They are listed below:

  1. Any person employed, full- or part-time, by the diocese, its parishes, or any Catholic entity that serves minors in any way, must complete a criminal background check, whether that individual is directly working with minors or not.
  2. Any adult participating in an overnight situation involving minors or vulnerable adults must have completed a background check and be cleared before the event.
  3. Anyone placed in a position of authority, trust, or supervision (of a minor or vulnerable adult) at an event that lasts more than twelve hours must have completed a background check and be cleared before the event.
  4. Anyone placed in a position of authority, trust, or supervision (of a minor or vulnerable adult) who serves for more than twelve hours in one year must have completed a background check and be cleared before he/she can be left alone with minors or vulnerable adults.
  5. Schools and parishes can require any adult who may be left unsupervised or unattended on school/church property to complete a background check and be cleared, even if the “twelve hours” requirement is not met.
  6. Special circumstances: At any time the diocese, deanery, or parish may decide that, to address the risks for a particular setting or event, even supervisory adults falling below the “twelve hours” need to meet Safe Environment requirements.  Questions?  Contact Molly Thompson.
Are background checks only for those working with minors?

No. Volunteers working with minors need to comply with Safe Environment, which includes having current background checks; but Safe Environment policies are encouraged even for those working with vulnerable adults. In addition, ALL employees of the diocese, its parishes, or any Catholic entity that serves minors in any way, must comply with Safe Environment, whether they work directly with minors or not. Employees occupy a visible and important role with real or potential access to information, money, or persons being served. Diocesan policies require that background checks must be completed. The Diocesan Sexual Abuse Policy also specifies that no one will be hired or retained who has had a substantiated claim of sexual abuse of a minor or if such a case is still pending against the person. (cf 402:18 no. 9.6.2 and 9.6.3)

How often does a person need a background check for Safe Environment?

A background check is valid for five years, at which time the individual would need to renew the background check in order to be compliant with Safe Environment requirements.  If a person were to move away from the diocese and later return (even within the five years), a new background check would need to be completed.

When Safe Environment policies were initially set, background checks were valid for two years. In late 2006 the policy was changed to reflect five-year validity, as long as the person had remained in the diocese during that time. That policy change was not retroactive though so individuals and places of ministry should refer to the clearance letters and cards they received to determine the expiration date for a person’s most recent background check. Questions can also be directed to the Office of Safe Environment.

Will a background check done elsewhere meet Safe Environment requirements?

That depends. Please contact the Office of Safe Environment for specific situations.

How do I get a background check done?

Background checks are handled through the diocesan Office of Safe Environment.   Individuals submit their forms to the diocese, and the forms are then submitted to any agencies for completion.

An individual needing a background check for the Diocese of Owensboro will find the request forms at either a diocesan Catholic school or parish or online  (Forms J&K).
The individual will:

  • fill out both forms completely (no blanks or initials),
  • sign each form with another adult witnessing the signature on each form,
  • make a copy of his/her driver’s license (or social security card or birth certificate),
  • add a $10 check payable to “KY State Treasurer” (if possible),
  • and forward all these items to the Office of Safe Environment, Catholic Pastoral Center, 600 Locust Street, Owensboro, KY, 42301.

Background checks are coordinated through the Office of Safe Environment rather than the individual parish, school or other institution.

Military personnel based at Ft. Campbell should also complete Form L: Ft. Campbell base check.

The Office of Safe Environment receives results and then distributes notice of clearance status to the individual and his/her place(s) of ministry.

Are background screenings handled the same way for everyone?

No. While it is true that the Office of Safe Environment does a background screening for all employees and for volunteers ministering with minors and vulnerable adults, church employers and others utilize additional resources for further screening.

Employees and prospective employees at parishes, schools, and other Catholic institutions undergo other screenings because employees occupy a visible and important role with real or potential access to information, money, or persons being served.

When a parish, school, etc. seeks to employ a person, it is required that all references be contacted (cf. 402:18 no. 9.6) and documentation must be kept of each person’s response as to whether or not an allegation or conviction has occurred against the prospective employee (cf. 402:18 no. 9.6.1). No one will be hired or retained who has had a substantiated claim of sexual abuse of a minor or if such a case is still pending against the person. (cf 402:18 no. 9.6.2 and 9.6.3)
**Note to prospective employers: Be sure to follow all diocesan guidelines/policies regarding employment as found in the Diocesan Policy Manual (cf. 309:1-49).

Seminarians go through additional screenings, handled by the Office of Vocations.

International priests coming in to serve the Diocese of Owensboro go through additional screenings, handled by the Vicar for Clergy.

How does the Office of Safe Environment evaluate the results of the background checks?

The primary concern within the Office of Safe Environment in all evaluations of records is safety for our minors and vulnerable adults.

Cleared:When a person’s records indicate no charges or convictions of concern and the person has completed the Safe Environment training, then the person AND the places identified as his/her places of ministry will receive notice that the person has been cleared for ministry. That notice will indicate information about training and background check expiration.

Restricted or Not Cleared: If any offenses show up during a person’s background check, they are evaluated and weighed by the background check coordinator, according to diocesan Safe Environment policies.  As stated above, the primary concern in this decision-making is the safety of  minors and/or vulnerable adults with whom the person plans to minister.  Areas of concern typically involve one or more of the following:  certain driving offenses or patterns,  offenses possibly indicating alcohol or substance abuse, or offenses of a violent nature.  The action taken in these cases may involve restricting the person from certain activities or, in more serious cases, prohibiting the person from ministry with minors or vulnerable adults, either for a determinate time or permanently. Any conviction for a sexual offense of any nature results in a prohibition from ministry with minors and/or vulnerable adults.

In the case of either a restriction or a prohibition, the person is given the opportunity to appeal. The Diocesan Review Board (or other confidential panel that the DRB designates) will offer a venue for the individual to appear and discuss his/her situation in a strictly confidential forum.  Proof of strong mitigating circumstances may result in a lessening or limiting of the restriction or prohibition.

Whenever a person is restricted in ministry or prohibited from ministry, detailed information regarding the restriction or prohibition is included in the letter to the individual. In addition, that same information is sent to the principal, pastor, or other institutional head where the individual had hoped to minister.

What if a person doesn’t have a current background check?

A person is not allowed to have unsupervised contact with minors or vulnerable adults without a current background check.

If a person was cleared through Safe Environment but has a background check that has JUST expired and the current background check is still in process, please contact the Office of Safe Environment to discuss options.

Why is the Church doing background checks?

The Catholic bishops of the United States, in Article 13 of their “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People,” have stated:

Dioceses/eparchies are to evaluate the background of all incardinated and non-incardinated priests and deacons who are engaged in ecclesiastical ministry in the diocese/eparchy and of all diocesan/eparchial and parish/school or other paid personnel and volunteers whose duties include ongoing, unsupervised contact with minors. Specifically, they are to utilize the resources of law enforcement and other community agencies. In addition, they are to employ adequate screening and evaluative techniques in deciding the fitness of candidates for ordination (cf. National Conference of Catholic Bishops, Program of Priestly Formation, [Fifth Edition], 2006, no. 39).

The Diocese of Owensboro is committed to providing a safe environment for all children and youth who attend our schools, parishes and other programs sponsored by the Diocese or its organizations.  Background checks are part of that effort.