The newly formed Association of Irish Priests had its first meeting yesterday. It is reported that the organisation will campaign for the rights of priests who have been wrongly accused of child sexual abuse who have not been supported by their diocese and priests who have been left in “limbo situations” where their right to natural justice is denied.
The Catholic Church’s child protection guidelines, Safeguarding Children, make it very clear that when an allegation of the abuse of a child is made against a priest or any other person working within the Catholic Church that person is entitled to the support of an Adviser appointed by the Bishop or other Religious Superior. That person is supposed to support the accused person as detailed below.
It is of great concern to me to learn from the Association of Irish Priests that Safeguarding Children is not being implemented in this regard as it raises the very obvious question: In what other ways is Safeguarding Children not being implemented?
Safeguarding Children, Resource 1 Section 3:
Each Bishop or Religious Superior should appoint an Adviser to be available to the respondent. Advisers shall represent the needs of the respondent to the Church Authority and assist, where appropriate, with the care of the respondent and with communication between the respondent, the Designated Officer and the Church authority / Church organisation. The respondent’s adviser shall not be the respondent’s therapist or spiritual adviser.
Advisers should be particularly alert to the sense of isolation and vulnerability which a respondent may experience following an allegation of this nature. He or she will:
Accompany, if so requested, and be available after the respondent’s meeting with the Church authority and the Designated Officer.
Inform the respondent of his or her right to obtain advice in both in civil and canon law.
Indentify any therapeutic or other needs of the respondent and suggest how these may be met.
Consider the wishes of the respondent in regard to a pastoral response by the Church to his or her family.
Be available to the respondent throughout the inquiry process, and thereafter as required.
Ensure that the respondent is kept informed of developments in regard to the inquiry.
Represent the needs and wishes of the respondent to the Designated Officer, as required.
Advisers should receive appropriate training. Under no circumstances should the same Support Person be provided for the child or adult making the allegation/ disclosure of abuse and for the respondent.