SAN JOSE -- Citing a new diocese mandate, the St. Martin of Tours Parish announced Friday that all volunteers must be fingerprinted as soon as possible and will set up a mobile service to do just that before a Christmas program next week.
But while a San Jose Diocese spokeswoman said she "applauds them for going above and beyond in ensuring the safety of children at our schools," there's been no such official directive.
"We are moving toward strengthening policy so that all volunteers who have access be fingerprinted and trained, but we are not ready for full implementation at this point in time," said Bernadette Luongo Hoye, the diocese spokeswoman.
Hoye declined to comment on whether the move has anything to do with the recent parental uproar at St. Frances Cabrini, where convicted pedophile Mark Gurries was spotted at a parish festival in October, working as a volunteer in the sound booth. However, fingerprinting would have been moot in his case since he is a known felon.
Gurries produced a letter of permission from a top school official that legally allowed him to be there, and the parish priest -- who has since resigned -- resisted parents who wanted him gone until a sheriff's deputy removed him. Parents have since accused the church of being slow to answer why a sex offender was allowed at the festival.
Since 2002, policy requires all volunteers who work unsupervised with children or vulnerable adults to be fingerprinted and go through training, per the charter of the U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops, Hoye said.
Exceptions to that rule could be a parent who volunteers within a classroom setting, with a teacher always in the room, Hoye said.
"It appears that St. Martin is ahead of the game here," Hoye said. "The diocese is moving toward this implementation, but we have to go through a process and review the 2002 policies then strengthen the policies. You don't just announce something and roll it out."
The Santa Clara County Office of Education fingerprints all volunteers except for a limited number who are on for a short-term and have only supervised contact with students.
While public schools are required by the state to fingerprint employees, there is no such law for volunteers and requirements vary by district.
The email sent Friday afternoon to the St. Martin of Tours community stated that "to ensure the safety of our children, the diocese has mandated that everyone who volunteers in the schools and parishes be fingerprinted."
It urged people who "volunteer in any capacity" at St. Martin who have not been fingerprinted to do so as soon as possible, and added that a mobile fingerprinting station will be set up next to the kindergarten classroom from 5 to 6:30 p.m. Thursday, before the school's Christmas event, at a cost of $20.
Hoye did not know why the parish is moving ahead of diocese requirements, and no one at St. Martin could be reached for comment Friday evening.
Hoye was unsure how long the movement to strengthen fingerprinting policies has been in the works, but said "there have been discussions about this in the past."
Contact Eric Kurhi at 408-920-5852. Follow him at Twitter.com/erickurhi.