Code of Pastoral Conduct

As decreed by Bishop Michael Mulhall D.D., effective February 1, 2018

1. Preamble

Priests, deacons, seminarians, and all those called to ministry in our parishes and other institutions must uphold Christian values and conduct as they minister to, or work with, the People of God. Imitating Christ, the servant-leader, we will conduct ourselves in ways that meet the needs of God’s people and promote the highest respect for the dignity of persons, especially the most vulnerable members of our community.

All who accept a responsibility within our Church family must be aware that their public and private conduct can inspire others but may unfortunately also lead to scandal and, therefore, undermine people’s faith. With constant reliance on the help of the Holy Spirit, they must be aware of the responsibilities that accompany their work.

This document is not an exhaustive list, but is intended, rather, to provide clear directives to protect our clergy and all those called to ministry, and those individuals with whom they interact. The document also provides a baseline for what is expected for professional conduct in the diocese.


2. General Directives

a. Living Arrangements

– Residence in rectories is limited to priests, deacons and seminarians.

– Provided that the Bishop is notified in advance, immediate family members may live for a time with the pastor.[1]

– Subject to the provisions of this Code, pastors may welcome priests and close relatives as guests in rectories for a brief period of time, not to exceed two weeks. Notification to the Bishop is required for any others needing to be accommodated in rectories for any length of time.

b. Work Environment and Boundaries

– Clergy, staff, and volunteers shall provide a professional work environment that is free from physical, sexual, psychological, written, or verbal intimidation or harassment.

– Clergy, staff, and volunteers assume the full burden of responsibility for establishing and maintaining clear, appropriate boundaries in all pastoral relationships, including counselling and counselling-related ministerial relationships.

– One-on-one private meetings must be held in an area with glass openings offering unobstructed vision, or in a room with the door open.

– Possession and/or use of recreational drugs are prohibited at all times.

– Use of aggressive, profane, humiliating, threatening, intimidating, sexist or racist language and conduct is prohibited.

– The technological resources of the Diocese may not be used to violate, intentionally or unintentionally, any civil, criminal, provincial, federal or international law, including copyright, trademark and patent laws.

c. Proximity

– Physical contact of any kind can be misconstrued. It is to occur only when it is clearly nonsexual and otherwise appropriate. Physical discipline is prohibited.

– Discussions of a sexual nature must occur only to respond, if necessary, to a specific question. Any such discussion must use appropriate and professional language.

– Should one discover an inappropriate attraction or attention being shown to him or her in a pastoral relationship, one must make every effort to defuse the situation. One must cease the relationship if the attraction or attention continues.

d. Counselling and Spiritual Direction

– In counselling and spiritual direction, one shall not step beyond one’s competence.  One must refer individuals to other professionals when necessary or appropriate.  It is never appropriate that a pastoral counselling relationship be considered a psychological clinical relationship, or psychotherapy.

– No interview, session or other conversation of a personal nature should ever be recorded (digitally, audiotape or videotape), unless with the interviewee’s permission and in an appropriate context (e.g., an interview for the Marriage Tribunal).

– In order to avoid confusion about the nature of the relationship, sessions (e.g., interviews, formal or informal conversations, counselling) must be conducted in appropriate settings at appropriate times that create accountability. One must also be concerned about the number and frequency of such sessions to avoid possible inappropriate attachments.

e. Financial Directives

– Ministry is part of pastoral service. Consequently, one must not ask for, or expect, financial compensation other than that outlined in other diocesan policies and protocols.

– It is forbidden for anyone to solicit, in any way, directly or indirectly, by word or action, any personal gift, bequest or endowment from a person with whom he or she has, or had, a pastoral relationship.

– It is forbidden for anyone to request or obtain a personal loan, or other financial benefit or consideration, from a person with whom he or she has, or had, a pastoral relationship.

– Clergy, staff, and volunteers who are involved in the financial administration of a parish must review and know the contents of Diocese of Pembroke: Instruction for the Implementation of Financial Law (Canon 537), and act accordingly.

[1] The term ‘pastor’ includes parochial administrator.


3. Additional Directives when dealing with Children, Youth and Other Vulnerable Persons

– Clergy, staff, and volunteers are encouraged to develop transparent and trustworthy relationships with children, youth and other vulnerable persons while maintaining clear professional boundaries.

– Particular care and attention must be taken in dealing with vulnerable persons.

A vulnerable person is anyone of any age or gender who might easily be exploited by another.

– Children, youth and some adults fall into this category of individuals. Some may be physically or mentally challenged or emotionally susceptible. Others may be socially isolated, in need socially or materially, or unable to communicate adequately, or unable to understand or speak the languages of our area. Others may live in fear, real or imagined, or in awe of authority figures. Others, such as immigrants and refugees, may be disadvantaged in a variety of ways.

a. Work Environment and Boundaries

– Meetings, rehearsals, liturgical training and other such activities must take place in groups and be supervised by at least two adults who are not related, in a public setting such as the church or parish hall.

– Interaction with children, youth, and other vulnerable persons must never take place in the residential part of the church property, or in any priest’s private residence.

– One must never provide shared overnight accommodation for children, youth and other vulnerable persons where there is not another, unrelated adult present actively engaged in supervision. Under no circumstances shall such accommodation be provided in the residential part of church property.

– Where an adult chaperone occupies a sleeping facility with a group of children, youth, or vulnerable persons, the chaperone must always sleep in a separate bed.  Accordingly, one must not sleep in the same bed as a child or youth or other vulnerable person.

– Priests’ family members who are under 18 can be guests in a church residence on the condition that they are accompanied by one of their parents.

– During activities organized for children and youth, one shall refrain from the use of alcohol and tobacco products.

– One must never purchase or provide access to alcohol, drugs, tobacco products, inappropriate videos, media or reading material for children, youth, or other vulnerable persons.

– One must never transport children, youth, or other vulnerable persons in one’s personal vehicle without the presence of another unrelated adult.   Everyone should be aware of the exclusion clauses in his or her personal insurance policy which may affect coverage in such cases. Every consideration should be given to the use of public transportation or rented vehicles, especially when dealing with groups.

– The Sacrament of Reconciliation with those under 18 and other vulnerable persons must be celebrated in an open space which allows both priest and penitent to be in full view of others, or in a confessional in which there is a physical barrier between the confessor and the penitent. Confessional rooms must have a window on the door.

b. Proximity

– One must never be alone with children, youth and other vulnerable persons. A parent or other adult must always be present or in close vicinity. Use a team approach to managing activities.

– One must exercise caution in accepting gifts from individual children or youth.  Similarly, one must not buy gifts for individual children or youth.

– One shall not take overnight trips alone with children, youth or other vulnerable persons. An appropriate number of adult chaperones is to accompany participants in such activities organized through the parish or diocese.

– Topics of a sexual nature that could not be comfortably discussed with parents or other adults must not be discussed with children.

c. Financial Directives

– One must not act as a financial advisor or take on the responsibility for power of attorney for any vulnerable person.  Drawing up a will, or serving as a witness for a will, for these individuals is also forbidden.

d. Implementation

– Responsibility for compliance with this Code rests with the individual engaged in pastoral ministry or service.

– Clergy, staff, and volunteers must hold each other accountable for maintaining the highest ethical and professional standards.

– Clergy, staff, and volunteers must review and know the contents of the diocesan Sexual Abuse Protocol, which is available on the diocesan web site, and act accordingly.

– Allegations of sexual misconduct must be taken seriously and reported immediately to the appropriate authorities in accordance with the Diocese’s Sexual Abuse Protocol.

– When an uncertainty exists about whether a situation violates this Code of Pastoral Conduct, refer the matter to the appropriate authorities mentioned above.

– When it appears that a member of the clergy, a staff member or a volunteer has violated this Code of Pastoral Conduct, report the issue immediately to the appropriate authorities mentioned above.

– Any request for derogation from the provisions of this Code must be submitted in writing to the Bishop or his delegate.

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