Toronto revises abuse protocols

By 
  • October 15, 2010
Archdiocese of Toronto crestTORONTO - With an emphasis on transparency, clarity and compassion, revised policies and procedures regarding allegations of misconduct, released Oct. 15 by the archdiocese of Toronto, now explicitly include misconduct by lay employees and volunteers.

According to the much-anticipated document — “Policy and Procedure for Cases of Alleged Misconduct” — all employees and volunteers of the archdiocese are subject to the same strict policies that govern clergy and religious. The revised regulations also reiterate the archdiocese’s zero-tolerance policy for abuse, unequivocally define what constitutes abuse and underscore that the policy extends to all vulnerable persons, including minors or “persons of any age” afflicted with physical, mental, emotional or spiritual handicaps.

The document updates a policy first introduced in 1989 and revised in 1991 and 2003. It can be read on the archdiocese web site: www.archtoronto.org.

In the wake of the sex-abuse scandal that rocked the worldwide Church early in the year, Archbishop Thomas Collins convened a committee of accomplished laypeople under the direction of Judicial Vicar Fr. Brian Clough to review Toronto’s protocols for dealing with allegations of abuse. What they produced does not differ significantly in substance from the previous document but it is markedly improved in presentation and language to make it much easier to read and understand.

“It’s much more reader friendly,” said the archdiocese director of communications Neil MacCarthy. “It’s not a document written by priests for priests. The committee asked: will the person in the pew understand this? That was the key.”

The document also strikes a more compassionate tone for alleged victims. There is now an entire section titled “Care for Complainants” to address their concerns. For example, the policy provides a step-by-step guide, including a phone number and e-mail address, for people to lodge a confidential complaint.

Respect for privacy and confidentiality are guaranteed for all non-minor complainants. In the case of minors, any archdiocese priest, deacon, employee or volunteer who has “reasonable grounds” to suspect a case of abuse is obligated to report it within 60 minutes to the Children’s Aid Society and contact the Judicial Vicar. For complainants older than 16, the Judicial Vicar will inform them of their right to notify police and, if they proceed, will assist them in making contact.

“Our aim is to provide meaningful assistance to those who have suffered as a result of abuse and misconduct, and to uphold the sacred values to which the archdiocese is so strongly committed,” the document says. It pledges to intervene immediately and effectively to stop acts of abuse and to offer assistance to alleged abuse victims to ensure “they are treated with respect and compassion.”

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