Archbishop Richard Smith speaks to reporters about the updated CCCB abuse prevention guidelines. Photo by Lincoln Ho

Archbishop Richard Smith outlines Canadian bishops' action plan on sex abuse

By  Thandiwe Konguavi, Canadian Catholic News
  • October 19, 2018
Grandin Media

EDMONTON – Trust in the Catholic Church has been broken in the wake of horrific reports of clergy sex abuse, but that trust can be restored, said Edmonton Archbishop Richard Smith. 

“As a bishop, I share in the pain and shame of that betrayal. I feel that and I’m sure every bishop feels that,” Smith said at a press conference Oct. 10. 

Smith said the archdiocese will be reviewing its own practices and protocols in light of updated and expanded national abuse prevention guidelines set by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops at their recent plenary meeting.

Canada’s bishops have pledged to implement the 69 recommendations in the abuse prevention guidelines, updating “From Pain to Hope,” which was unique when it was created in 1992. 

The new national guidelines outline a strict system of accountability and transparency. Responding to complaints, for example, includes an immediate call to police if the abuse involves children, and any investigation involves lay people to prevent any hint of coverup.

“This means that as a bishop, I am accountable to other bishops, to the people I serve, and to the public,” Smith said. “If we receive a credible and substantiated allegation of abuse, I will act on it immediately.”

The new guidelines, made public Oct. 4, focus on healing for victims and repairing the damage done to both the Church and society. They also come on the heels of a Pennsylvania grand jury report that exposed decades of abuse and coverup by Church leaders, and follow the forced resignation of former American cardinal Theodore McCarrick for abusing a minor. 

“I think people want to see concrete protocols, policies. They want to see evidence of commitment, not just to prevention but also to the way that we’re going to respond sensitively, decisively, clearly to allegations,” said Smith. “How we walk with people to help them to heal.” 

Smith announced new measures in the Edmonton archdiocese to restore that trust.

Victims of sexual abuse who receive compensation or counselling will not be asked to sign confidentiality agreements or be held to any such agreements signed in the past.

And, pending a review that’s underway, the names of any priests who have served in the archdiocese who have been accused with credible and substantiated allegations of abuse, will be made public on the archdiocese website.

Smith also announced that Fr. Peter Hung Cong Tran, a priest in Calgary who formerly served in Edmonton, is accused of sexual misconduct and has been removed from ministry.

Tran was pastor of Queen of Martyrs, Edmonton’s Vietnamese parish, from 2007 to 2016. He was also associate pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Vancouver, where the alleged abuse took place, from 1998 to 2003. 

At least six priests who have served in the Edmonton archdiocese have been charged and convicted of sexual misconduct or abuse in the past, with crimes dating back to the 1960s. The most recent one was in the 1980s. 

The archdiocese receives about three calls per month reporting abuse, not necessarily about clergy and not necessarily sexual, said Teresa Kellendonk, the director of pastoral care who is in charge of investigating abuse complaints.

To prevent abuse, every employee or volunteer in the archdiocese has been required to take training through Praesidium, an international abuse prevention consultancy. Since 2011, over 10,000 people including priests, deacons, seminarians, staff and volunteers have received training.

Priests and lay people in the archdiocese will also begin receiving more in-depth training on how to investigate cases of abuse.

“It rests on all of us to prevent abuse,” Kellendonk said. “So the protocols we have in place, the abuse prevention training that we have been participating in for the last seven years with all of our volunteers and our parishes, nobody gets a free ride. No bishop, no priest, no volunteer.”

(Grandin Media)

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