Prevention is first defence against child abuse, says bishop

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Calgary Herald

Bishop Fred Henry, Calgary

Published: Sunday, May 22, 2011

Re: “Bypass the bishops,” Editorial, May 20.

Your editorial has done all of us a disservice and fails to acknowledge initiatives taken to strengthen our parish communities.

First, the Roman Catholic Church does not consider itself exempt from the obligation to report a case of child abuse to the police in accordance with the Alberta Child Welfare Act.

Second, self-policing is not our primary line of defence, but a good case can be made that prevention is.

Third, we are also committed to transparency and have a Model Code of Pastoral Conduct and Sexual Misconduct Abuse Protocol posted on our diocesan website.

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Calgary is committed to complying with the obligations of canon, civil and criminal law as well as informing complainants, the families and the accused of their civil and legal rights.

The diocese will also always act in accordance with the laws of Canada and Alberta.

Section 3.3 of our Diocese Sexual Misconduct Protocol deals explicitly with allegations of abuse of children:

If the complaint involves allegations of abuse of children, the misconduct committee chair (who is not an employee of the diocese) shall: (a) if the complaint involves a child currently in need of protection as defined under applicable child protection legislation, report the allegations to the appropriate authorities immediately in accordance with the applicable law;

(b) ensure that the Roman Catholic Diocese of Calgary co-operates fully with any investigation by appropriate authorities; (c) not conduct an internal investigation until any criminal or child protection investigation is completed; (d) if it appears that other children or vulnerable persons may be currently at risk, take such action as is appropriate in the circumstances and in accordance with this policy and applicable law, or recommend such action to the bishop; (e) if warranted, notify the misconduct advisory team and keep them informed of the investigation, recommendations and any resolution of the complaint; and (f) inform the bishop of the complaint and the steps taken by the misconduct committee chair.

Furthermore, any clergyman or employee or volunteer of the diocese who suspects that a child may be in need of protection, as defined under applicable territorial or provincial laws, must report this suspicion to the appropriate authorities.

If the alleged abuser is a member of the diocese or an employee or volunteer of the diocese, then the misconduct committee chair must also be advised of the allegations.

Any clergyman, employee or volunteer of the diocese who is accused of abuse of a child must notify the misconduct committee chair immediately and should consult with independent legal counsel.

The bishop shall immediately remove anyone accused of child abuse from contact with children or other vulnerable persons and, if the accused is a clergyman or an employee of the diocese, place him or her on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of any investigation by police or child protection workers.

Bishop Fred Henry, Calgary

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