Discussing a report of contracts where offending priests are "stripped of their preistly rights" by ABC. It relates to an interview with Bishop Robinson on Sunday Profile.


About John Lilburne


Journal 17 June, more about the interview


1826 K Sun 16 Jun 2002

I find the news report disturbing:

... Bishop Robinson helped develop the 'Toward Healing' protocol, which was adopted by the Catholic Church in 1999 as a blueprint for the handling of sexual abuse allegations within the church.

He has told Sunday Profile the process itself works and if it falls down it is because of an individual's failure to follow it.

Under the protocol, offending priests enter into a contract with the church by which they are stripped of their priestly rights and agree to a set of conditions. ...

Contracts to be "stripped of their priestly rights" do not sound according the Code of Canon Law. Looking at "Towards Healing" I find:

... 42.4 The process of determining the future ministry of a priest or religious shall be consistent with the requirements of the Code of Canon Law. [Footnote 5: Canon law provides a number of principles and procedures which may be relevant to determining the future of a priest or religious in cases of alleged abuse. In addition to an administrative or judicial procedure as laid down in canons 1720-1728, there is the procedure for the removal of a parish priest under canons 1740-1747. Reliance may also be placed upon Canons 1041 and 1044 if it is considered that the priest or religious is incapable of fulfilling ministry due to psychological infirmity. In some cases it will be appropriate to commence a formal penal process even where guilt is admitted in order to reach a judgment in accordance with canon law.]

If a cleric or religious has admitted to or been found guilty of abuse, the Church authority shall, in person or through a nominated representative, meet with the offender to discuss honestly and openly the offender's future options. The offender may be accompanied by a support person and/or legal representative. The discussion shall take into account the seriousness of the offense and all relevant circumstances. It is unfair to hold out to a serious offender any hope of a return to ministry when it is clear that this will not be possible. ...

The radio program starts in 10 minutes, maybe I will be clearer then.

1848 K Sun 16 Jun 2002

I have just been listening to the interview with Bishop Geoffrey Robinson. I was very impressed with his responses on how things should be dealt with in Australia. For example, if there is a police investigation you should not alert the accused by removing him from his job.

I continue to be concerned about the issue of priests having a contract to remove their clerical rights (e.g. not wear clerical dress). But I think Bishop Robinson makes a good case that this is an appropriate response for old priests.

The interview transcript should on the Sunday Profile web site in a few days and I highly recommend it.

Copyright J.R. Lilburne, 16 June 2002. Last updated 17 June 2002.

Other sites:

abc.net.au/news "Priests guilty of sex abuse likely to offend outside Church: Bishop"

Towards Healing

Sunday Profile