Our bishops should set the standard, not lag behind the pack

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I took the opportunity during lunch break to put together a few comments on two Church related news items previously posted (1) CCCB can’t make the rules for specific diocese, and (2) Priest begins serving sentence

CCCB can’t make the rules for specific diocese

All I can say is that for reasons unknown, Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) is desperate to keep the clerical collar on its sexual offenders in Canada. 

Bishop Durocher claims the CCCB can not make rules that all dioceses must follow.  There is a lot of truth to that – it’s not supposed to. 

However, that has never stopped the CCCB…

I recall well when the CCCB introduced its new feminized lectionary in Canada. The CCCB decided to circumvent Church procedures to accomplish its end, and, it was done.  Utilisation of that particular lectionary became mandatory, or as close to mandatory as is possible under the circumstances.

In like vein, when From Pain to Hope, the CCCB sex abuse guidelines, was published in 1992 with its companion workbook Breach of Faith Breach of Breach of Trust the CCCB had no difficulty urging every diocese in the country to comply with the guidelines and conduct workshops.  I remember well and some years later penned a few thoughts on the bishops’ collective response to the problem of clercial sexual abuse.

In short, I’m inclined to believe that if the bishops wanted to set up a clerical sex abuser registry they could and would, and would find ways to urge reluctant bishops to comply. 

But the CCCB doesn’t want to.  Do they, like Father Frank Morrissey, share the view that it would be a bad business decision to toss out a $25,000 investment?  And if it doesn’t boil down to that, what exactly is the problem?

I believe the bishops must understand and, as far as I’m concerned, it goes without saying that Roman Catholic clergy enjoy a unique position of trust which derives in whole or in part from the naïve but persistent assumption that every priest is a man of God who would never offend God, his Church or his fellow man.  Subsequently there is I believe a very unique and particular onus on the bishops to put their collective episcopal heads together to do what can and must be done to protect their flock from clerical sexual predators. 

If at the end of the day the bishops insist on putting finances over souls by re-cycling/reintegrating predatory priests they have, I believe, not only a duty to compile a public clerical sex offender registry, they also have an additional obligation to parents, children and youth who – it might reasonably be assumed – will or may ever come in direct contact with the offending priest.  In this regard then the bishops should/must

(1) advise ALL parishioners in a parish which has been designated to “reintegrate” an offender that their new priest, Father Such-and- Such is a paedophile or sexual predator,

(2) similarly advise ALL Roman Catholics in the diocese when a clerical sexual offender is brought into or returns to the diocese, regardless of whether he is serving in the diocesan centre, or on the marriage tribunal, or in the local hospital, or in a parish.

The bottom line is that our bishops should be setting the standard when it comes to issues of sexual morality and sexual abuse, not lagging behind the pack.

Note also in this article the quote from Bishop Paul Andre Durocher:

“Sometimes, keeping somebody on a tight leash would be better for the safety of others than simply dismissing them.”

24/7?  Impossible.  What kind of a tight leash can Bishop Durocher or anyone keep on a predatory priests who will, for example, stoop to ‘using his collar’ to molest a child in the privacy of confession or under the dinner table in the presence of the child’s parents?

It’s impossible.  The only logical way to limit a clerical sexual offender’s opportunity to inflict irreparable psychological and spiritual damage on children and young adults is to

(1) strip him of the privilege and trust which accrue with ‘the collar’ by, as we say, stripping him of his collar (laicize, or “defrock”) so he can longer call himself a priest and indulge in the enjoy the benefits, and/or

(2) keep the public in general and Roman Catholics in particular advised that there is a need to be vigilant because a priest who is a known sexual predator is in their midst.

For the sake and safety of all and the good of our Roman Catholic Church I believe the former is the preferable and only solution.  Until then, the onus is on the bishops to alert the faithful when they, our bishops, decide to reintegrate a clerical sexual predator and thereby place the faithful at risk and, I would add, simultaneously risk further scandal for the Church and the potential loss of faith for countless more Roman Catholics.  Every Canadian clerical sexual predator who is incardinated in a diocese and living in or outside Canada, and every foreign clerical sexual predator serving in any diocese in Canada should be identified. 

Priest starts serving sentence 

As for Bishop Paul Andre Durocher’s announcement that the diocese has it’s first priest ever behind bars, what can I say?

The Quebec Court of Appeal ruled against Father Lapierre 11 September 2006.  The word is that Lapierre, brother of Senator and former professor at London’s Christ the King College Laurier Lapierre, was off to jail immediately.

I trust Bishop Durocher will offer an apology to Father Paul Lapierre’s victim for the pain, suffering and humiliation he endured in a Cornwall courtroom where Father Lapierre’s denial won the day and where, incidentally, the victim was the same victim, a lawyer, whose allegations of sexual abuse during a trip to Montreal have now put Lapierre behind bars. 

A jail sentence for a priest from the Diocese of Alexandria-Cornwall!  Amazing!! 

A jail sentence for a priest which is direct fallout from the Project Truth investigation!  More amazing!!!

A modicum of justice, small as it may be, has been rendered.

Enough for now,

(cornwall@theinquiry.ca)

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2 Responses to Our bishops should set the standard, not lag behind the pack

  1. Myomy says:

    It is indeed true that the Bishops should set the standard as you say. One element of that standard which I have noted in following these cases is that the Bishops protecting errant clergy and keeping them in parishes is that they demand proof of wrongdoing beyond any reasonable doubt. This is a good standard if it is a matter of locking up a criminal and depriving him of his freedom. In the case of a priest in a parish they hold a privileged position of trust. The standard of proof to remove someone from such a privileged position should be much lower. The burden of proof that the person is worthy of the trust placed in him should be on the person. If they are engaged in activity which is suspicious they should have a good explanation for it. If a probability of wrongdoing is found they should be removed. Removal from a position of trust is not the same as locking a person up and the standards should vary accordingly. The Bishops have been getting away with applying an impossible standard which is the place of the state to apply. The Bishops could apply another standard appropriate to their authority and position and clean up the problem in short order. The state with its police and courts are really a clumsy instrument for fixing this problem but it is better than nothing in view of the negligence of the bishops to exercise their proper role. Sad to say in the case of Cornwall it looks like we will be getting more of nothing from the state as well as the church.

  2. Sylvia says:

    You are so absolutely right! Yes. The standard of proof required for the bishops to deal with their errant clergy should be and could be lower.

    And perhaps if the bishops decided to implement a ‘zero tolerance’ “one strike you’re out” policy the State would follow suit? Regardless, if the bishops would just deal with these sexual predators so that they are deprived of the “benefit” of the collar while working to achieve their own salvation as laymen the Church would be healthier and faith might slowly be restored for the thousands who refuse to set foot inside the door of a church because of the bishops’ inistence on recycyling and reintegrating clerical sexual abusers.
    Sylvia

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