As decreed by Bishop Richard W. Smith.
The sexual abuse of a child is a terrible crime that causes deep hurt for many people. It is rightly called “scandalous”, both in the biblical sense of potential harm to faith and in the secular understanding as something shocking and disgraceful. Our first thoughts go to any victim of abuse and his or her family members. At the same time we recognize that such an incident is a source of pain for the Church as well, especially for co-workers and parish communities associated with the person accused of sexual abuse against a child. The purpose of this protocol is to ensure that the Pastoral response of the Diocese of Pembroke to all those affected by an allegation of sexual abuse be guided by the principles that the Lord has entrusted to His Church: truth, light, compassion, justice and mercy.
The following procedure is to be implemented in the event of an allegation of sexual abuse involving a child made against a member of the clergy of the Diocese of Pembroke, a Religious with a pastoral assignment or any lay employee or volunteer while involved in any church activity within the Diocese of Pembroke. The person making the report of the allegation of sexual abuse involving a child and the victim of the abuse are referred to in this protocol as the “Complainant”. The person against whom the allegation is made is referred to as the “Respondent”.
1. Bishop’s Delegate
The Bishop has appointed a priest to whom all sexual abuse allegations involving children are to be reported directly, as well as a Deputy Delegate, should the principal Delegate be unavailable. He will assist all involved in matters of such allegations. The Bishop’s Delegate will also act as chairperson of the Sexual Abuse Advisory Committee of the Diocese. The office of the Bishop’s Delegate can be reached at the Diocesan Centre 613-732-7933 ext. 214 or through direct contact of the priest delegated.
2. Obligation to Report
All citizens who have reasonable grounds to suspect that a child is, or may be, in need of protection, have a legal obligation to forthwith report this situation, along with supporting information, to Family and Children’s Services in Ontario (if the child is under the age of 16 years) or La Protection de la Jeunesse in the Province of Quebec (if the child is under 18 years of age). For the purposes of this protocol, the term “child” refers to anyone under the age of 18 years.
The Bishop’s Delegate will ensure that the civil authorities have been notified. The Bishop’s Delegate will assist with the ongoing civil investigation, wherever possible, but will undertake no independent investigative role.
3. Report by an Adult
In a situation where an adult person alleges sexual abuse while he or she was a child, the Bishop’s Delegate will immediately inform the Complainant of the Complainant’s right to contact the police to commence a criminal investigation. If the Complainant prefers another procedure, the Complainant’s wishes are to be respected. The Bishop’s Delegate will then conduct a suitable investigation of the allegation by interviewing the Complainant and taking a formal written statement. The Bishop’s Delegate will then seek consultation as deemed necessary and keep the Bishop informed of developments.
Response to the Report of Sexual Abuse Involving a Child
1. Response to the Complainant
The Diocese respects the rights of a Complainant to seek justice in the matter of an allegation of sexual abuse involving a child. The Diocese, while respecting the judicial process, wants to respond immediately in a pastoral way to the expressed need of the Complainant by providing an opportunity for counselling and/or spiritual direction.
When a sexual allegation has been made, the Bishop, with the assistance of the Diocesan Committee will attempt to immediately assess the situation and implement measures to minimize the trauma that inevitably flows from such a regrettable and scandalous incident. It is essential to begin the healing process for the Complainant, the Complainant’s family, the parish community, the Diocese and the community as a whole at the earliest opportunity.
If there is determined substance to a complaint, the Bishop’s Delegate will immediately offer to refer the alleged victim and close family members to professional counselling services and/or a spiritual director. Such services will continue until the earlier of a determination that such services are no longer reasonably necessary, or the complaint is found not to be substantiated.
In the event of a criminal conviction the Diocese will offer to a victim of sexual abuse the continued services of qualified persons who can provide counselling and/or Spiritual Direction.
In the event the victim of sexual abuse is not interested in using the social services personnel network provided by the Diocese, the Complainant may wish to approach their personal physician to propose an alternative programme of treatment.
2. Response to the Respondent
(a) Immediately upon being informed that a public accusation or charge has been made, the Bishop will relieve the Respondent of his/her duties and the normal legal investigation will follow. The Respondent will not function in his/her assignment in the Diocese, or elsewhere, until such time as the matter is finalized.
(b) The Bishop may consult with the Diocesan Committee to discuss recommendations concerning interim measures to be taken while the Respondent is awaiting trial.
(c) After criminal proceedings, and if any, civil proceedings have been concluded, the Bishop will decide if a canonical investigation will be undertaken.
(d) In the event of an allegation of sexual abuse being proven to be unfounded, the Bishop will take every possible step to restore the good name of the Respondent and provide for any Professional Services which may be necessary to assist the Respondent.
A Committee composed of professionals (doctor, psychiatrist, lawyer, teacher, nurse, and a parent) has been established to assist the Bishop to provide a policy for the Diocese of Pembroke on the prevention of sexual misconduct and the appropriate response of the Diocese when such may occur.
The role of the Committee is three-fold:
1. Assistance to the Complainant
The Committee, chaired by the Bishop’s Delegate, will offer advice, suggestions, and recommendations to the Bishop regarding the assistance which should be offered to the Complainant and his/her family especially during the critical and traumatic time following the allegation so that the trauma will be lessened for the Complainant.
2. Assistance to the Parish and Diocesan Community
If an accusation or charge is public, the Committee will also assist the Bishop in offering guidance to the parish and diocesan community, which of necessity are affected by the allegation. When it is deemed opportune, the Bishop, or his delegate, may visit the parish involved to explain what has been alleged and what procedure will be followed with respect to the Respondent.
3. Assistance to the Respondent
The Committee may offer advice or recommendations to the Bishop about how to reach out to the Respondent, depending upon the nature of the allegation.
Responsibility of Religious Superior
In the event of a complaint of sexual abuse of a child involving a Religious, the immediate canonical Superior will be contacted forthwith by the Bishop so that the competent Superior will assume responsibility for the implementation of this protocol, or, with the approval of the Bishop, invoke the Religious Institute’s own procedure for dealing with such matters.
An official of the diocese will be appointed to supply the media with appropriate information in accordance with instructions received from the Bishop.