Fr. Mongeau

Jesuits combining policy and prayer

By 
  • March 29, 2019

Canada’s Jesuits are tweaking their sexual abuse policy less than three years after their last update, but as they do so they’re matching their policy with prayer.

The policy review was prompted by the reunion of the English and French-speaking provinces of the order in Canada, which necessitated their re-incorporation under Quebec law.

The most substantial change in the Jesuit abuse policies is more detailed procedures aimed at defining and preventing sexual harassment, whether of adults or children, employees or parishioners.

“It’s much more positive and constructive to have a policy that tries to prevent,” Fr. Gilles Mongeau said. “One of the key preventative measures is to have a solid anti-harassment policy.”

The Canadian Religious Conference doesn’t track the abuse policies of religious orders in Canada, so it can’t say how many orders have updated their policies since the Pennsylvania Grand Jury report and Pope Francis’ unprecedented letter to all the faithful on the subject last summer, said CRC executive director Fr. Tim Scott. But in one sense, Canadian religious communities have had their policies updated for them by Canada’s bishops.

“Certainly the new Canadian protocols issued by the bishops apply to religious communities of women and men, and in the case of clerical communities of men, all the more so,” Scott said in an e-mail.

But rather than just issue a new policy, which should be available in both official languages early in April, the Jesuits have decided to engage every Jesuit community and institution in a communal process of prayer and discernment about the policy and the global abuse crisis in the Church. Anyone working for a Jesuit school, parish, retreat house or organization will be asked to read through the document as well, consider it in the context of damage that sexual abuse has caused in the Church and beyond, pray over it and then discuss their thoughts and prayers with their colleagues in a formal process of discernment.

“We’re quite conscious that we’re doing something quite different,” Mongeau told The Catholic Register. The idea is “to move beyond simply paralysis in the face of this horrible situation,” Mongeau said.

True repentance for the history of abuse has to include some form of restorative justice, the Jesuits declare in their discernment guide.

“It is not enough just to ask for forgiveness; the Church has to commit to an authentic process of reparation as a sine qua non condition for rebuilding a bond of trust, both among the people of God and between the Church and the world,” reads the guide.

That might include payouts of money, no matter how broke the Canadian Jesuits are or will be, Mongeau said.

“It’s a risk we have to take. If we’re serious, then it’s a risk we have to take,” he said.


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Support The Catholic Register

Unlike many other news websites, The Catholic Register has never charged readers for access to the news and information on our site. We want to keep our award-winning journalism as widely available as possible. But we need your help.

For more than 125 years, The Register has been a trusted source of faith based journalism. By making even a small donation you help ensure our future as an important voice in the Catholic Church. If you support the mission of Catholic journalism, please donate today. Thank you.