Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops Updating Guidelines on Priest Sexual Abuse

by John McKiggan

Canadian Catholic Bishops are attending their annual Conference this week. The Conference (the CCCB) runs from Sept. 24-28th and is expected to include approximately 90 Bishops from across Canada.

New Rules?

One of the important items on their agenda is the updating of their guidelines for the prevention of clerical sexual abuse. On their approach to the new guidelines the CCCB president, Archbishop Richard Smith told The Catholic Register:

“Of course our ongoing response must extend far beyond the articulation of protocols and procedures to an embrace in love and compassion of any person, family or community affected by this scourge.”

The new guidelines are expected to deal with the impact of the clerical sexual abuse crisis on the ministry of priests and how the bishops can provide support. Additionally, the conference is expected to examine the conditions that increase the risk of sexual abuse with an eye to prevention.

Same Old News?

This is not the first time that the guidelines are being updated. Justy about a year ago I wrote abou the Vatican’s Abuse Guidelines. At the time I was concerned that the Vatican stated Bishops “should” report preist sexual abuse to civilian authorities, instead of ordering that Bishops MUST report sexual abuse to the proper authorities.

Despite the recent update, there is no doubt that the existing guidelines needed re-working. As I said last year:

“The Vatican’s guidelines recognize that child abuse is a crime. But the Vatican won’t order bishops to report crimes of sexual abuse. By recommending that bishops should comply with laws requiring reporting of crimes against children, instead of emphatically stating that bishops must comply with the law, the Vatican shows that the guidelines are simply a public relations exercise, rather than a legitimate attempt to address sexual abuse by priests.”

We can only hope they get it right this time around. Will the new guidelines explicitly direct the Bishops to comply with the law and to report all allegations of sexual abuse, past and future, to the authorities? Or will this just be another public relations exercise.

Stay tuned.

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