Yesterday (28 January 2013) I posted the Ottawa Archdiocese’s Protocol Regarding Sexual Abuse of Minors by Clergy and Religious Clerics
I did so without comment, but with plans to comment. My mind has been in overdrive for days. I will have my say now :).
I happened upon the Archdiocese of Ottawa’s protocols quite by chance about two weeks ago. Yes, they have been out since September 2011 but, until now, I don’t recall seeing them or hearing of them.
I was, quite frankly, stunned when I read the protocol. I was stunned for many reasons, but primarily because of the realization that the archdiocese has chosen NOT to report sex abuse allegations to police or Children’s Aid Society unless the complainant is a minor at the time the allegations are reported Church officials – NOT just a minor at the time of the abuse, but also a minor when the allegations are reported.
Note the following (emphasis added):
This Protocol is primarily designed to address the case of sexual abuse of victims who are minors at the time of the allegation. The provisions of the Protocol will be appropriately adapted to allegations concerning historical cases of sexual abuse of minors; i.e., allegations by adult victims who were minors at the time that the sexual abuse was alleged to have taken place. Respecting the requirements of privacy and confidentiality, the Archdiocese notes that the decision to approach police, or other civil authorities, is that of victims who are now adults.
” Respecting the requirements of privacy and confidentiality, the Archdiocese notes that the decision to approach police, or other civil authorities, is that of victims who are now adults.”
Whose requirements of privacy and confidentiality? I would say this infers that all adult victims demand privacy or confidentiality and hence the onus is on them to report to police. But in the same breath I’ll say that those who stand to gain the most by this ‘duty to report’ are the molester and the diocese.
As for adult victims demanding privacy and confidentiality, do ALL victims make such demands? Some may, but I think not by any stretch of the imagination do all. But, for those who do, is there ever a thought in the minds of Church officials that those victims who fear coming forward to that extent can be encouraged to do so specifically because children are or may well be at risk?
And all of that aside, even IF a victim may be reluctant to go to police, what in the name of all that’s good and holy prevents Church officials from doing so? True, in such cases they may not be in position to identify a victim by name, but they are in position to identify by name a priest against whom there are credible allegations, and they are in position to give police details regarding the priest’s assignments so that police can start checking for other victims. (I suppose for that matter they are in position advise police if there have been other allegations, “credible” or otherwise, against the same priest? I personally believe they have a moral, if not a legal, obligation to do so.)
Do Church authorities want to risk having other children sexually violated by this priest? If not, then why quibble and split hairs over reporting? If there is truly a will to see justice done and ensure that children are protected this would not even be a question.
The same holds true for reporting to Children’s Aid.
Isn’t it amazing? Think of Cornwall, and of then Constable Perry Dunlop fulfilling his duty to report credible sex abuse allegations to CAS. And think of the $60M Cornwall Public Inquiry which failed to draw any conclusion on the issue of the duty to report to CAS when the allegations are, as they say, “historic.” (Dare I say that though the allegations may be deemed historic by the powers that be the one doing the molester is not?)
Nothing, but nothing has changed! Nothing!
What about the children? Never mind all the legal hoops and fulfilling the letter of the law, what about the children who are willfully left or placed at risk?
Interestingly enough, this is much the same approach we hear from Mr. Michel Bastarache. Yes, by all means, advise the adult victims that they can report to police if they so wish. But, if the victim chooses not to, Mr. Bastarche apparently feels no personal obligation to report to police, nor to alert the public that a child molester is in their midst. Ditto the Archdiocese of Moncton, and this despite the fact that he told John MacDonald in a 10 December 2012 email that “If ever there was a case where an individual would be in danger, no matter if he/she were a minor, I would definitely not hesitate to report this to the police.” To my knowledge Mr. Bastarache did NOT advise either police or family services that Father Yvon Arsenault is a suspect molester, and took no steps to ensure the safety and well being of all those who knew and/or trusted Father Aresenault. Did he presume that Father Arsenualt is no longer a threat? If so, on what grounds did he draw that conclusion?
As for the Moncton Archdiocese, yes, the archdiocese did eventually announce that when Father Yvon Arsenault had been quietly suspended last summer it was because of sex abuse allegations. But, had victims not gone to police would such an announcement ever have been made? True, Father Aresnault had been removed from a parish, but the reason for his suspension was not made known and he therefore still retained the trust of those children and adults to whom he had ministered through the years. Without the truth to accompany it, the suspension does nothing to protect those who are or may be in need of protection.
I could go on and on, but this is the section of the protocol which leaped out at me and reminded me that, when it comes to clerical sexual abuse, there is no progress of merit in the Church in Canada, and Canadian bishops are paying mere lip service to the problem of clerical sexual abuse.
And all of this reminds me of things which have been gnawing away at me for ages. For example:
– I fail to understand why, in Canada, there is no duty to report to police. Who decided that the only duty to report what is suspect criminal activity would be reporting to Child Aid or whatever its equivalent in other provinces? Why not a duty to report to both CAS and police? Or why not a duty to report to police who in turn are obliged to report to CAS?
– I fail to understand why a molester is no longer deemed a threat when his victims are branded victims of “historical” abuse.
– I fail to understand why Church officials spend more time dancing on the head of a legal pin than doing what can be done to protect children from known or suspect molesters. The business of the Church, after all, is the salvation of souls. These officials surely know as well as, if not better than I, that virtually every victim of clerical sexual abuse becomes a lost soul? Despite this, when they can find a legal out to do so, they are willing to risk the loss of more souls?
– I fail to understand why our judiciary allows suspect molesters to walk on a technicality. I fail too to understand how a sentencing judge can, on one hand, talk of the horror of child sex abuse , and on the other sentence a Father Hod Marshall to two years behind bars for sexually abusing 17 young people.
– I fail to understand how defence lawyers can look themselves in the mirror when they stoop to any depth to get a child molester off, or, failing that, fight for a condition sentence or a few paltry months behind bars.
– I fail to understand why Crowns attorney essentially concur with defence lawyers on sentencing of convicted molesters, or how they can whittle away charges on a plea deal.
But, I digress. Back to the protocol.
There are other issues with the protocol, ie..
1.1 Anyone serving the Church in ministry, or as a lay employee*, or as a volunteer,* who has reasonable grounds to suspect that a minor has suffered or may be suffering from sexual abuse on the part of a member of the clergy or a religious cleric, or who receives an allegation* of such sexual abuse of a minor, has an obligation* to report it to the Office of the Archbishop.
Note, anyone with even suspicions has “an obligation” to report to the diocese. An “obligation”! Good or bad?
1.7 It is preferable that a complaint be made in writing, signed by the complainant, dated, and then notarized by an ecclesiastical notary.
Why? This sounds more like a legal process.
3.2 Acting out of pastoral concern, the help offered to the complainant is intended to be without prejudgement of the allegation and without prejudice regarding any future civil actions.
??? Why does the pastoral concern end when the bishop sics his lawyer on the victim in court, be it at a civil or criminal proceeding?
4.3 The accused is to benefit from the general presumption of innocence and the right to be heard. The application of this Protocol will be such as to ensure that the good name of the accused is protected, noting that an allegation may be unfounded.
That speaks for itself. As in years past, ‘poor Father’ can without doubt be assured that his “good name” will not slip out into the public domain because “an allegation may be unfounded.” Meanwhile, as is often the case, it is founded, not a soul who trusts and reveres him will know that Father is child molester and that children and vulnerable adults may be or are risk.
6.2 Should a victim seek a confidentiality agreement, it is to be absolutely clear that this would be entered into only at their request,
I can see a lawyer sympathetic to the diocese looking for a confidentiality agreement on behalf of his client (the victim), but I can not see a victim of his own volition asking for a confidentiality agreement. Am I wrong here? I have never heard of a victim demanding a confidentiality agreement.
A final note. Here is a 1987 draft of sex abuse guidelines for the Archdiocese of Ottawa:
Remember now that this is from the days when presumably no-one knew and no one understood. What progress, if any, has been made?
Enough for now,