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Website launched to report sexual misconduct by Canadian Catholic bishops

By 
  • May 6, 2021

A new system launched to report abuse by Canada’s Catholic bishops is the next step within the Church to make sure all instances of abuse are exposed and eliminated, Gatineau Archbishop Paul-André Durocher said.

“We wanted to make sure there were no gaps in the system when it comes to reporting abuse,” said Durocher, one of four bishops on the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (CCCB) Standing Committee for Responsible Ministry and the Protection of Minors and Vulnerable Adults.

“This is another step, and in keeping with Pope Francis’ directives, to make sure there is no place for abuse within the Church.” 

Canada’s Catholic bishops launched the national, bilingual online site to report sexual abuse either committed or covered up by a bishop May 6. The website, BishopReportingSystem.ca, gives people a secure and confidential platform to report sexual misconduct or cover-up by any active or retired Canadian bishop or eparchial bishop, according to a statement from the bishops. It can also be accessed toll-free, 24 hours a day, at 1-866-892-3737. 

“There has been a lot of effort and focus within the Church to set up procedures and protocols to make sure people feel they can safely report instances of abuse, but the reporting would eventually have to go through a bishop,” Durocher explained. “But what if the issue or abuse involved a bishop? 

“In some ways that was a gap in the system, what if it is a bishop that is doing something wrong or is not following the proper protocols, what then? Who do you report that to? In many ways, it is plugging a hole in the system.” 

Once a report is received, it will be reviewed by a “bishop reviewer,” typically the Metropolitan Archbishop in charge of the territory within which the accused bishop serves. If the charge is against a Metropolitan Archbishop, the report will go to a papal representative. The reviewer will forward an assessment to the Vatican with a request to begin an investigation. A bishop will then be authorized to oversee the investigation and report back within 90 days. If the accused bishop is found guilty, the Holy See will impose the disciplinary measures, which could include dismissing him from the clerical state.

The CCCB said the new reporting system is the Canadian Catholic Church’s “direct response” to Pope Francis’ call for all dioceses and eparchies in his Apostolic Letter Vos estis lux mundi (You are the light of the world) to establish “one or more public, stable and easily accessible systems for submission of report” and “introduces an additional level of accountability for Church leadership in Canada.” 

The new system was developed by the Canadian firm Clearview Strategic Partners in consultation with the bishops.

“ClearView’s technology benefits anyone wanting to make such a report by providing them with a secure and confidential platform, allowing them to remain anonymous if they so choose, and ensuring all communications are documented and preserved,” said the CCCB.

The bishops’ statement announcing the system also quoted  Dr. Delphine Collin-Vézina of Montreal’s McGill University.

“Our society must aim to create a climate of safety where the abuse of children and vulnerable people is simply not tolerated, and where their support is paramount,” said Collin-Vézina, director of the Centre for Research on Children and Families at McGill as well as the Canadian Consortium on Child & Youth Trauma, calling the new system an “important step forward.” 

“This system is rooted in a victim-first approach and aims to remove the multiple barriers that prevent disclosure. These abuses have been silenced and covered up for too long, leaving victims and survivors unheard.” 

Durocher said the Standing Committee for Responsible Ministry and the Protection of Minors and Vulnerable Adults played a key role in the development of the system, as did the two members of the committee who are abuse survivors. 

“There was a lot of discussion about this to make sure that the concerns of survivors were addressed in setting up the reporting system,” Durocher said.

The committee, which has been a consulting body to the CCCB since 2018, has a mandate “to provide the appropriate CCCB bodies with researched-based information, insights and recommendations on questions and concerns related to clergy sexual abuse.”

The goal of the committee is to “address the issues of healing and prevention comprehensively in recognition of their full impact on victims, families, local communities, society and religious faith; and to do so in a manner fully consistent with federal and provincial/ territorial laws in Canada.”

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Updated 05/11/21

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