Bishops approve plans to deal with accusations of sexual assault and help abuse victims
Canada’s bishops are finalising new policies to better protect minors against sex abuse.
At their annual plenary in Cornwall, the bishops approved, in principle, a new document on preventing sexual abuse and protecting minors, “Moving Towards Healing and Renewal – The Canadian Experience.” The document offers some guidelines to help the dioceses better manage allegations of sex abuse by members of the clergy, as well as to contribute to the healing of the victims of abuse by priests or men religious.
Archbishop Anthony Mancini of Halifax-Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, who heads the bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee on the Protection of Minors, said the new document updates the Canadian bishops’ 1992 document, “From Pain to Hope,” and aligns the bishops with standards put out by the Vatican.
Bishop Douglas Crosby of Hamilton, Ontario, president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, said experience in this area “is so much broader now and so much deeper. This will present a lot more information along the lines of ‘From Pain to Hope,’ but updated.”
Bishops now have a chance to review the text and send in suggestions and corrections. Bishop Crosby said he expects that if no major changes are required, the document will be approved in November at the next meeting of the CCCB’s Permanent Council and published in early 2017.
Archbishop Mancini said the new document adopts a new perspective: It is designed to implement guidelines to protect minors against abuse. That change of tone and language is aligned to “a better understanding of the realities,” he said.
“It’s not a document against sex abuse. It a document that sets out the protection of minors as an essential responsibility for the bishops, as church leaders and witnesses of the Gospel,” he said.
The document includes a section on the responsibilities of religious and their superiors when it comes to implementing policies to protect minors against abuse, the archbishop said.
“We’ve set out recommendations so that the major superiors and the bishops may be able to interact (more effectively) with the religious congregations,” he said.
The bishops’ 1992 document was published in the aftermath of the Mount Cashel Boys Home sex scandal. Located in St. John’s, Newfoundland, and managed by members of the Christian Brothers congregation, that orphanage was the site of one of worst sex-abuse scandals in Canadian history. Nine members and ex-members of the congregation were convicted of sexual and physical aggressions against their students.
In the past two years, the courts have settled numerous class-act action suits against religious congregations, in the aftermath of sex-abuse scandals involving priests or men religious.
In August 2015, 111 former students of the Saint-Alphonse Seminary in Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupre, Quebec, filed a class-act action against the Redemptorist Fathers for sexual aggressions perpetrated by members of the congregation. The court settled a $14 million agreement against the Redemptorists, on the behalf of the victims. In February, a settlement was reached between the Viatorians and their victims, for sexual aggressions perpetrated at Montreal’s Institute for the Deaf. Though the exact number of victims is still unknown, Judge Eva Petras of Quebec’s Superior Court has approved a $30 million settlement, a record amount for a sexual aggression class-action suit.