Glossary of Terms


The diocese submits to a yearly third-party assessment of our implementation of the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.  In addition, every parish, school, and agency that participates in the Diocese of Dallas Safe Environment Program is audited annually by the Office of Safe Environment to ensure compliance with both Charter and Diocese safe environment requirements.

boundary violation

An action which violates the Ministerial Code of Conduct but does not constitute sexual abuse.

Canon Law

The Code of Canon Law, promulgated in 1983, is the core expression of a universal body of ecclesiastical (or “church”) laws, rooted in the Church’s faith, mission, and practice, that regulate the internal governance of the Roman Catholic Church. There are other sources of legislation for particular areas of Church life and worship.


Refers to the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People that was approved by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops at a meeting in Dallas in 2002, and by the Holy See.  It is a comprehensive set of procedures for addressing allegations of sexual abuse of minors by Catholic clergy as well as guidelines for reconciliation, healing, accountability, and prevention of future acts of abuse.

Also see: Frequently Asked Questions on the Charter (

civil authorities

Refers to government authorities such as the local law enforcement agency, city police department, sheriff's department, state police, or child protection agency. It is distinguished from religious authorities, such as the bishop of a diocese.


In Catholic usage, a collective term referring to all those ordained—bishops, priests, and deacons—who administer the rites of the church. Adj. clerical.

credible allegation

A credible allegation is one that, after review of reasonably available, relevant information in consultation with the Diocesan Review Board or other professionals, there is reason to believe is true.


 See “Dismissal from the Clerical State.”


Usually a territorial division of the universal Catholic Church entrusted to the pastoral care and leadership of a bishop who is assisted by the assigned priests and deacons who make up the clergy. Adj. diocesan.

dismissal from the clerical state

Often called “defrocking” or “laicization.” The process by which a priest or deacon returns to the status of a lay person and is released from the obligations of the clerical state, and celibacy by a separate dispensation. Once a priest or deacon has been dismissed from the clerical state, he is no longer counted as a cleric, may not function as a priest or deacon, and may not present himself publicly as a priest or deacon. Dismissal from the clerical state is usually permanent in voluntary cases and always when imposed as a penalty.  In cases of sexual abuse of a minor, is the ultimate penalty the Church can impose. Note that dismissal from the clerical state is not always imposed as a penalty, and is sometimes requested by a priest or deacon for a variety of reasons. A priest or deacon might voluntarily request dismissal from the clerical state, for example, in order to marry.


The relationship of obedience and accountability between a cleric and his diocese or religious order is referred to as incardination. A diocesan priest's diocese of incardination is the diocese to which he permanently belongs. For religious order priests, the order itself is their religious home rather than a geographical location - they are “incardinated” in the order.


 See “dismissal from the clerical state.”

laity/lay person

In the Catholic Church, anyone not ordained a deacon, priest or bishop is a layperson. Laypersons include some members of religious orders: women religious (sisters, also called “nuns”) and non-ordained men religious (brothers, some of whom are known as “monks”), who live consecrated lives of prayer and service. The Church also refers to those members who are neither ordained nor members of a religious order as laypersons, which underlines the important ways in which lay women and men serve in the church.


Any person who has not reached his/her 18th birthday. For purposes of the list of the names of priests against whom a credible allegation(s) of sexual abuse of a minor since 1950 released on January 31, 2019, a “minor” is anyone under the age of 18 at the time the alleged abuse occurred.

removed from ministry

See "dismissal from the clerical state" or "suspension."

Safe Environment

The term used within the Catholic Church to refer to comprehensive programs that contribute to preventing the physical, sexual, or other abuse of minors and vulnerable adults within the Church.

sexual abuse of a minor

For purposes of the list of priests who are the subject of a credible allegation of sexual abuse of a minor released to the faithful of the Diocese on January 31, 2019, this term refers to conduct of a sexual nature that involves a minor and violates certain state or federal criminal laws, and/or the Church’s standards of behavior for those in active ministry.


A suspended priest or deacon is not permitted to function in public ministry. However, suspension does not remove the cleric from the clerical state. He remains a member of the clergy, even though he is prohibited from exercising any functions associated with it.  Additionally, suspension is not a permanent penalty - it is imposed so long as the reasons for its imposition remain. For example, a cleric may be suspended when an allegation of misconduct is received, but if the allegation is not determined by church or civil authorities to be a credible allegation of the sexual abuse of a minor, the cleric may be returned to ministry. 


Acronym for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.  All bishops of dioceses in the United States are members of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, and collaborate through the USCCB in certain areas of shared concern.  The USCCB is not the “governing body” of the Catholic bishops in the United States, and agreements made by its members do not bind the U.S. bishops unless supported by a two-thirds majority and approved by the Holy See.

Also see: USCCB website About page (


A person who has abuse of any kind in their background and has or is working to overcome the negative effects of that abuse.