Discussing media reports that policy documents preventing sex abuse victims being silenced by legal agreements are not being followed in the Catholic Church in Australia.
 

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0833 K Mon 10 Jun 2002

In yesterday's homily at Mass, Archbishop Hart said "... The vast majority of priests are totally beyond reproach ...". I thought "reproach" was a much better word to use than "question" which appeared in the "apology advertisement" I wrote about on 7 June.

I think the advertisement has been particularly effective. By clearly stating the policy of the Catholic Church in Australian it is now clear that the policy has not been followed.

From the Advertisement:

6. Victims are not prevented from discussing the abuse they have suffered with anyone at any stage, but many prefer that their privacy be respected. Victims are not silenced as a condition for receiving counselling or compensation.

This reflects the "Towards Healing" (December 2000) policy:

41.4 No complainant shall be required to give an undertaking which imposes upon them an obligation of silence concerning the circumstances which led them to make a complaint, as a condition of an agreement with the Church authority.

But as ABC News reports:

... A section of the "Towards Healing" protocol explicitly states that no victim should be forced into silence.

But it seems that section has been ignored in some instances with several victims coming forward claiming they have been gagged.

Executive officer of the "Towards Healing" program, Sister Angela Ryan, says she will be looking into instances where church lawyers and even bishops have overlooked that directive.

"It shouldn't have happened by the bishop, it shouldn't happen by a congregational leader, it shouldn't happen by the mediator, the lawyers who draw it up," Sister Ryan said.

Sister Ryan says all dioceses outside of Melbourne have agreed to follow the "Towards Healing" protocol but admits that there is no real power for her, or anybody else, to enforce it.

"There is no way that any other group of bishops can compel one bishop to do that," she said. ...

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, Archbishop Pell said yesterday:

... "I am Archbishop of Sydney, not the Archbishop of NSW, and do not speak for other dioceses," he said. "Obviously, it is clear that further work needs to be done by dioceses and orders to co-ordinate the form of compensation payments and prevent them being misunderstood as hush money." ...

I think this should considered by the US bishops preparing to meet on a policy document next week.

Its the problem of having documents saying one thing and practices which are different. The documents say everyone should stand for the Gloria. But yesterday Archbishop Hart sat for it. The documents say instituted lectors are to be used, when available, but at the Melborne cathedral yesterday they were there as altar servers, but did not do the readings.

Hopefully with this media spotlight the bishops will appreciate the problems with not following what is written. While this is painful, it is a necessary part of the purification of the Church.

Copyright J.R. Lilburne, 10 June 2002.

Other sites:

AM report

ABC News Report

The Age

Sydney Morning Herald

Herald Sun

60 Minutes, last night's story

Towards Healing