New CCCB abuse guidelines released

By 
  • January 25, 2008

{mosimage}OTTAWA - New forcefully worded orientations to guide Catholic dioceses in updating their sexual abuse protocols stop short of being binding on the bishops.

“That’s the nature of our organization,” said Winnipeg Archbishop James Weisgerber, president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, noting the conference does not have authority over individual bishops. The orientations were posted Jan. 21 on the CCCB’s web site, www.cccb.ca.

Weisgerber described the orientations as “very good and very clear guidelines, with a very strong recommendation from the conference” for the bishops to “adopt or adapt according to their own circumstances.” He pointed out Canada’s dioceses range from having as few as 10,000 faithful, to 1.5 million.

“Obviously organizational needs will be different.”

Dioceses have had sexual abuse guidelines for 20 years, he said. The orientations give the dioceses an opportunity to “look at theirs again and update them.”

The orientations “repeat, clarify or strengthen the recommendations” in the Catholic bishops published 1992 document From Pain to Hope. The bishops’ permanent council last June and bishops’ plenary assembly last October amended them. By then, they had been under discussion for two years, Weisgerber said, so a consensus had been reached.

The orientations say a protocol “should include”:

  • the appointment of a bishop’s delegate and a deputy delegate to handle sexual abuse issues and complaints. (The deputy would act when the delegate was not available);
  • the reporting of all abuse allegations to the delegate, who must comply with legal reporting requirements and assist police investigations;
  • a system to release information and to make sure everyone in the diocese knows about the protocol;
  • the appointment of a media liaison who is not the bishop’s delegate or deputy delegate;
  • recognition that pastoral concerns outweigh concerns about possibly forfeiting insurance coverage;
  • support and pastoral care for those distressed by prosecution or conviction of a priest or lay person for sexual abuse;
  • a system for when or how canonical action such as a preliminary canonical inquiry, or canonical measures such as temporary or permanent suspension of ministry functions should be taken;
  • ongoing mentoring and support for clergy;
  • prevention programs that include screening such as legal records checks, training programs for all who work with children and a parent-approved information program on sexual abuse for children;
  • plans to update the protocol every four years.

The orientations were produced through a wide consultation that included victims and other community organizations such as schools and sports clubs.

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