Archdiocese of Toronto to review, update abuse protocol

By 
  • April 17, 2010
Archbishop CollinsTORONTO - The archdiocese of Toronto, in the wake of the abuse scandal the worldwide Church finds itself embroiled in, will examine ways to update its procedures in dealing with such cases.

Archbishop Thomas Collins made the announcement through a letter read during the homily at Masses in parishes throughout the archdiocese the weekend of April 17-18.


Collins said he will be asking "a qualified group of lay people, recognized as having relevant experience with youth, psychology, legal issues and ethics," to examine ways in which the archdiocese's "Procedure for Cases of Alleged Misconduct" can be made more effective.

The procedure was first introduced in 1989 and has been revised twice, in 1991 and 2003. The protocol has worked well for the archdiocese, the archbishop wrote, is transparent and "fulfills every obligation of law in Ontario and Canada... but we need to review it again." He expects to have the input by July 31 and to update the procedure by the fall when "our priests and all those who are engaged in pastoral service in our archdiocese will discuss more fully how we can best respond to the issue of sexual abuse in the Church and in society."

"It seems that not a day has gone by in recent weeks without hearing of Catholic priests who have sexually abused those entrusted to their care, or of the failure of their superiors to deal rightly with that," wrote Collins. "We should always be thankful when wrongdoing is revealed, for that can lead to renewal, but in the face of this constant criticism, Catholic clergy and lay people alike can feel discouraged, angry, confused and ashamed."

While noting the vast majority of priests "serve faithfully, in the imitation of the Good Shepherd," when even one priest does wrong, it causes great suffering for all laity, clergy and religious.

"Steady reflection upon this painful reality challenges us to work more effectively to do all that we can to ensure that this evil does not afflict the vulnerable in the future," he wrote.

"This is especially a time for all of us to pray deeply, humbly offering to God the Eucharist, Eucharistic adoration, the rosary and our other daily prayers. Pray first of all for anyone who has suffered violence or abuse, in the Church, in their family or in society. Pray also for all of us who serve you in any pastoral ministry, that each day we will be faithful to the office entrusted to us."

A view from the pews

Michael Swan, The Catholic Register

TORONTO - The pastoral message from Archbishop Thomas Collins announcing a lay panel of experts to examine church protocols for dealing with abuse allegations in Toronto had parishioners at Our Lady of Lourdes in Toronto talking.

Here's some of what they had to say:

Dave PeddleDave Peddle, a 45-year-old who was baptised into the Catholic Church three years ago, said the message brought home how profoundly sexual abuse has affected the church. The message also had a personal impact for Peddle, who is still dealing with the abuse he suffered during his childhood.

"I kind of felt like crying," Peddle told The Catholic Register after the 11:30 a.m. Sunday Mass.

Peddle's own abuse did not happen in the context of the church, but he's glad to see the church confronting the problem.

"I'm proud of the church that we're dealing with it," he said.


Mary McDonaldLong-time Lourdes parishioner Mary McDonald was heartened to hear of the Toronto archdiocese speaking about sexual abuse openly, but she remains doubtful about Pope Benedict XVI's handling of the situation.

"The Pope is a professor and a teacher. I'm sure he's a holy man," said McDonald. "I don't think he knows how to handle people."

 


Carl KnipfelCarl Knipfel took issue with Collins' assertion in the pastoral letter that Pope Benedict had led efforts to reform how the church deals with sexual abuse cases. Knipfel does not believe the Vatican response under either Pope John Paul II or Pope Benedict XVI has been adequate.

Collins' letter, however, did impress Knipfel.

"I thought the letter was positive and constructive," he said.

Knipfel said he's endured scorn from friends at a party who questioned how he can remain loyal to the Catholic Church.

"Someone lit into us because we're Catholic," he said.

Knipfel defended his community by saying the Church comes to a lot more than a few abusive priests.


Moenangongo TwohigCora Twohig-Moengangongo said her 97-year-old mother has thoroughly approved of every positive and direct statement by church officials that takes responsibility for priestly sexual abuse. Mary Twohig is devoted to the daily TV Mass and was heartened by Fr. Dan Donovan tackling the subject in one of his homilies. "That's absolutely fantastic," the nearly century-old Twohig told her daughter Cora.

Twohig-Moengangongo thinks her mother has the right instincts.

"It's critically important to have public words and not just to run from it," said Twohig-Moengangongo, a part-time professor of systematic theology at the University of St. Michael's College. "I thought it was a good thing."

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