Draft sets rules for clergy – Diocese releases code of conduct for anyone associated with Catholic church
Priests must never be alone in their residences or vehicles with children and should have another adult present when counselling young or vulnerable people, suggests a draft report released today by the Roman Catholic Diocese of London – click here to read report.
The report, called ‘A Safe Environment Policy for the Diocese of London’, also calls for the creation of a victims assistance committee, suggests parishes affected by sexual misconduct should have assistance and provides a code of conduct for anyone associated with the church, from priests to volunteers.
“When you put it all together there are some very clear dos and don’ts,” diocese spokesman Ron Pickersgill said. “They’re very much addressing the kinds of concerns raised by victims.”
Paul Bailey, the Chatham-Kent Crown attorney who led the prosecution against Rev. Charles Sylvestre, 84, who died in prison in January after pleading guilty to sexually abusing 47 girls over a number of decades in parishes throughout southwest Ontario, considers the draft a great first step.
“It is an excellent point of origin,” Mr. Bailey said. “My only caveat is that though we’re making really good progress, this isn’t just a Diocese of London problem.”
Mr. Bailey said he plans to gather input from survivors, who no doubt will have some suggestions. But he’s so impressed with the draft document that he hopes the final version will influence the rest of the country.
“The establishment of a modern, thoughtful, complete sexual abuse program in the Diocese of London is really a beachhead,” Mr. Bailey said.
“It can be used as a template for other jurisdictions. I hope it will spread.”
Among the recommendations is establishment of a “two-deep rule,” already employed in many minor sports and boy scout organizations, requiring at least two adults be present with a child at any time.
Two weeks ago, the diocese sent a letter to Father Sylvestre’s victims, who are now adults, informing them of the draft policy changes.
In recent years the Catholic church has been rattled by costly and highprofile lawsuits from victims of sexual abuse at the hands of priests. Father Sylvestre was convicted in October.
Mr. Pickersgill said the diocese has learned a lot in recent years and wants to make its best practices, many of which are being followed, official.
“We’ve grown into this awareness and now we’re putting this out on paper,” Mr. Pickersgill said. “In many parishes these are best practices that are already observed.”
Mr. Pickersgill said the diocese is letting the draft report, which originally was supposed to be released in February, speak for itself. Rev. John Sharp, who prepared the report, will therefore not comment on it.
But Mr. Pickersgill said the document is only a draft and that the public is invited to respond to it by July 31.
The diocese will then sift through submissions, though Mr. Pickersgill said he can’t predict when a final report might come.
He did say, however, that the London diocese will continue to review its policies.
“The new policy is so much more comprehensive than anything we’ve had before,” Mr. Pickersgill said.
“But once the so-called final policy is out, it will be subject to review on a regular basis.”
…this post forwarded by a Windsor Humanist (N.Hod) after a June 15, 2007 article by Craig Pearson in The Windsor Star