Toronto archdiocese's abuse protocol committee ready to get to work

  • May 6, 2010
Fr. Brian CloughTORONTO - From a clinical psychologist who treats and researches sex abusers to a social worker who has spent 22 years protecting children in the child welfare system, the archdiocese of Toronto now has a team ready to thoroughly review its policies in cases of priestly sex abuse.

“I’ve asked people to come to the first meeting (during the second week of May) with their suggestions and difficulties and so on,” said archdiocese of Toronto judicial vicar Fr. Brian Clough. “They’re bringing different backgrounds and different viewpoints and we’re going to have to listen.”

The committee of seven lay people working with Clough has been asked to have a report ready for Archbishop Thomas Collins by July 31. Clough doesn’t see the deadline as a problem.

“We’re not out to reinvent the wheel here,” said Clough. “We’re out to fine tune it to meet the needs of today.”

This will be the third major review of the policy that was first introduced in 1989. It was revised in 1992 and in 2002.

Both the range of expertise and the presence of lay people on the committee are critical to its success, said committee member Joan Breech.

“It’s very positive, very good, to involve the whole church — and that includes the laity and the ordained,” said Breech “The laity have been affected as well. We’re all part of the Church.”

Breech is a chartered accountant, the Chief Administrative Officer for the Sisters of St. Joseph and a former Chief Financial Officer for the St. Joseph’s Health Centre in Toronto. She’s also the mother of three children and a member of St. John’s parish in Toronto’s Beach neighbourhood with her husband, David.

Other committee members are:

  • Clinical psychologist Dr. Philip Dodgson of the Southdown Institute, a mental health facility for clergy and religious north of Toronto. Dodgson is an internationally recognized expert in treatment of sexual abusers, widely consulted by bishops around North America;

  • John Kostoff, Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board director of education;

  • Lawyer Hugh MacKinnon, chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the national law firm of Bennett Jones LLP. MacKinnon sits on boards of directors ranging from the Pontifical Institute of Medieval Studies to the C.D. Howe Institute to the foundation board for Bethlehem University;

  • Moral theologian and lawyer Dr. Moira McQueen, executive director of the Canadian Catholic Bioethics Institute and a lecturer in Christian ethics, marriage and sexuality and other topics at Toronto’s University of St. Michael’s College;

  • Educator Patricia Parisi, the outgoing principal of St. Clement’s School in Toronto;

  • Social worker Janie Ryan, a director at the Children’s Aid Society of Toronto, and a board member of St. Clare Inn, which helps women recovering from addictions and mental health crises make the transition to permanent housing.

“I think the archbishop has pulled a good team together,” said Clough.

In a letter read at weekend Masses throughout the archdiocese April 17 and 18, Collins announced the review of sex abuse policies. He said recent media attention on sexual abuse by priests, and how such cases have been handled by bishops, “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.”

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