10Dec Extract from an article in The Tablet

Concerns have been expressed over draft guidelines for suspending priests accused of sexual abuse. “Leave from Sacred Ministry”, drafted by the Church’s own safeguarding authority, is under consideration by the Irish bishops and is understood to suggest publicly naming any priest
facing an accusation of sexual abuse, even though the priest may subsequently
be cleared. Leaked details of the draft guidelines, written by the National
Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church (NBSCCC) said that the
proposals will also place the onus on accused priests to produce evidence to
disprove an allegation in order to have the allegation classed as unfounded.
Priests could also have to wait for the conclusion of an internal church
investigation, which will follow a civil investigation, before they can be allowed
to return to ministry. The Irish Conference of Religious (Cori) has accepted the
guidelines as has the Irish Missionary Union but the Irish bishops are yet to
ratify.

Fr Tony Flannery, spokesman for the Association of Catholic Priests (ACP), said that members would be “very unhappy” with these proposals if they were to go ahead in their current form.
He said the ACP, which represents more than 600 priests, would be “uneasy”
about guidelines which appeared to presume that a priest was “guilty until
proven innocent” and which put “the onus on the priest to prove his innocence”.
He added, “Our legal advice has highlighted that this kind of position violates
the basic and fundamental principles of natural justice and fair procedure”.

The chief executive of the NBSCCC, Ian Elliot, said that “a great deal of attention has been paid to
trying to be as balanced and fair as possible” on the “Interim Guidance” on leave
from ministry. He said that the NBSCCC had consulted widely on it for over two
years and the current draft was the ninteenth. He added that it is “likely that
they [the Irish bishops] will adopt it later this month subject to some final
amendments and discussion”. Currently, there is no agreed standardised
procedure on how bishops or heads of religious congregations should handle the
enforcement of leave of a priest accused of abuse. Procedures vary from diocese
to diocese.

 

11 Responses

  1. Kyle

    It’s quite odd and I would say disingenious for ‘The Tablet’ to suggest that this is their article. It’s simply a re-write from what was in ‘The Sunday Business Post’ a week ago.

  2. Sarah

    Kyle’s observation is frankly rather ‘disingenuous’ in its own way. The above is an ‘extract’ from The Tablet article which contains new material not contained in the SBP article. This includes fresh insights including the ACP’s response to the draft guidelines – surely this is of interest to Kyle if he is reading the ACP website content? It also contains a response from Ian Elliot (which was not in SBP) and who, in fact, was highly critical of the SBP article stating that: “The article in the SBP at the weekend did not give a fair impression of the content of the Guidance”. That quote from Ian Elliot is contained in the following article:
    http://www.cinews.ie/article.php?artid=9424

    Interim Guidance on ‘Leave from Sacred Ministry’ to take effect in January
    Sunday, December 11st, 2011

    The Interim Guidance on ‘Leave from Sacred Ministry’ will be implemented early in the New Year, according to the chief executive of the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church (NBSCCC).

    The guidelines have already been signed off by the Irish Missionary Union and the Conference of Religious of Ireland, two of the three co-sponsoring bodies of the NBSCCC. The bishops’ conference, which is the third body, announced, following the conclusion of their winter General Meeting in Maynooth last Wednesday, that representatives of the NBSCCC and the bishops had “discussed the complex and sensitive issue of leave from sacred ministry.”

    The bishops said the National Board would, in the light of the discussions, “finalise interim guidelines” that will be approved for use for a period of one year, and then reviewed. NBSCCC Chief executive, Ian Elliot (pictured), told ciNews that the bishops have asked for some small amendments to be made to the language in some parts of the Interim Guidance and when this has been done they will approve it.

    There is a meeting later this month at which the representatives of CORI and the IMU along with the four archbishops will meet, Mr Elliot confirmed. “The final draft will be signed off at that stage and will be issued after that. It will be implemented on an agreed date in the New Year and will be issued with the endorsement of the members of Coimirce (NBSCCC).” He added, “I would expect this to be early in January.”

    Asked about the nature of the guidelines, Ian Elliot told ciNews that they set out an approach that may be followed when asking a priest to step aside.

    “It is not proscriptive, but allows for each case to be assessed and decided upon on its own merits,” he explained. He confirmed, “The matter of informing parishioners of the fact that a priest has been made the subject of an allegation is set out in the guidance.” However, he added that the suggested approach “is to work on the basis of agreement with the respondent.”

    The Association of Catholic Priests (ACP) has expressed serious concern over the guidelines publicly naming any priest facing an accusation of sexual abuse, as some priests may subsequently be found innocent.

    Responding, the NBSCCC chief said, “Throughout the document emphasis is placed on the importance of acting in a way that communicates that someone is innocent until proven otherwise.”
    Leaked details of the draft guidelines published in the Sunday Business Post newspaper suggest that the proposals will also place the onus on accused priests to produce evidence to disprove an allegation in order to have the allegation classed as unfounded.

    Priests may also have to wait for the conclusion of an internal church investigation, which will follow a civil investigation, before they can be allowed return to ministry. This would mean falsely accused priests would face even greater delays in having the restrictions on their ministry lifted.

    Fr Tony Flannery, spokesman for the Association of Catholic Priests, told ciNews that ACP members would be “very unhappy” with these proposals if they were to go ahead in their current form.

    He said the ACP, which represents over 600 priests, would be “uneasy” about guidelines that appeared to presume that a priest was “guilty until proven innocent” and which put “the onus on the priest to prove his innocence.”

    He added, “Our legal advice has highlighted that this kind of position violates the basic and fundamental principles of natural justice and fair procedure.”

    According to Ian Elliot, the article in the Sunday Business Post last weekend, “did not give a fair impression of the content of the Guidance in that a great deal of attention has been paid to trying to be as balanced and fair as possible.” He added that the NBSCCC had “consulted widely on it for over two years and the current draft is number 19.”

    “In my view it will help greatly in achieving a more uniform and consistent practice across all of the dioceses and the Church as a whole in Ireland,” he said.

    The Interim Guidance is aimed at achieving a more uniform and consistent practice across all of the dioceses and the Church as a whole in Ireland. At present, there is no agreed and standardised procedure on how bishops or heads of religious congregations should handle the enforcement of leave of a priest accused of abuse. Procedures vary from diocese to diocese.

    “We have tried very hard to be fair and just at all times whilst at the same time maintaining an appropriate focus on protecting the vulnerable in the Church”, the chief executive of the National Board for Safeguarding said.
    by Sarah Mac Donald
    © CatholicIreland.net 2002-2011

  3. Paddy Ferry

    Not trying to ignore or dismiss the significance of the piece above, but I would like to mention another article that appeared in last weeks Tablet, page 2, Non- Negotiables of the Council. If there is substance to this, and it would appear that there is, then the current plight of our Church is about to descend to a completely new and much more serious level, if that is possible.I was hoping some body else would have commented on it. My own sense of despair is deepening by the day.

  4. DR.HENRY

    Natural justice and fair procedure are hardly likely to proceed from a monarchical episcopacy that has no roots whatever in the New Testament. Priests have human rights many of which have been destroyed by the medieval and renaissance creation of prince bishops and the canon law that they have invented. These prince bishops are power hungry, arrogant, insensitive, wealthy and palace oriented. Now that the sexual sins of clergy have been brought out into the light by the information technology of the 21st century, prince bishops are searching for convenient scapegoats, who happen to be priests. The official moral theology of the Catholic church has always been counter to this kind of behavior. Calumny and detraction have been forgotten in the current ‘whose to blame’ chicanery. To publicly proclaim a priest’s name as either a suspect or as an offender is intrinsically destructive and evil. A rigorous following of the rules of evidence of the state or nation is the only way to have a fair and just trial. The Catholic church is quickly deteriorating into kangaroo courts that will eventually destroy anything vaguely resembling the life, example and teaching of Jesus Christ. Satan has essentially taken over the Roman church and its princely minions.Money is at the very core of modern church problems. The lynching of priests could easily become the new sport of the ‘upper’ clergy. At the very top, they bump each other off.

  5. Spencer

    Dr. Henry states that “Satan has essentially taken over the Roman church…” So the gates of hell have prevailed and so this is not Christ’s church by definition. What on earth is he and those who agree with him doing by remaining in the Catholic Church? Luther (a priest) left, Calvin (a priest) left, Knox (a priest) left along with many other priests in England and Europe. Are you people less honest than they were? I just don’t get it.

  6. Joseph O'Leary

    Did Luther leave the Church? He was excommunicated in 1520 — a different thing.

    Was Calvin a priest? — apparently he was not ordained a Catholic priest: http://mphilliber.blogspot.com/2008/01/was-john-calvin-ordained.html

  7. Paddy Ferry

    Did you know that Calvin believed in the Real Presence but not in Transubstantiation.

  8. Spencer

    The question stands. What is someone who regards the church as “Satanic” doing within it? I still don’t get it. If almost everything is wrong with the Church, then logically you do what several Irish priests have already done and join a body that appears to be nearer to what you believe is the truth – the CoI is waiting to welcome you and give you almost everything you seek. Are you being honest in remaining?

  9. Matt

    I think Archbishop Martin unfairly picked out the poor oul lapsed Catholics in his recent RTE comments. All that he said about them should have been first said about priests. But then it is easier to pick at the lapsed Catholic laity than face the priests.

  10. Joseph O'Leary

    Spencer, to be sure the CofI has been an attractive haven for some priests and many laity, and even Cardinal Kasper says that is something we should respect or rejoice in just as we do when people feel moved to join the RCC. But the RCC has been through more scandalous times in the past (inquisitions etc.) and the saints stuck by her, being confident that the Spirit has not deserted her and the she would prevail against the gates of hell. The “Satan” rhetoric may be unhelpful but it is often invoked by would-be reformers (even Paul VI went on about the “smoke of Satan” in the Church). Looking at BBC World Service reports on the Filipino bishops, I see more instances of arrogance, corruption, and hypocrisy, but it seems to me that this cannot last and tends rather to self-destruct.

  11. Michael Philliber

    Though in some ways, I don’t have a dog in this fight, nevertheless, there is a connection between Protestants and Catholics (and Orthodox) – when you suffer (whether persecution or scandal) we all take a hit. Joseph O’Leary, I’m glad you found my blog and article on Calvin. Though the evidence is sketchy, Calvin was a subdeacon (at the least). Beyond that, there’s no documentation that has surfaced thus far. That doesn’t mean he was not a priest nor that he was. His later view of ordination was almost sacramental. Spencer and Dr. Henry, to say that Satan has essentially taken over…the Church is alarming, but has been the case before. In 2 Kings 8 and 9, though Satan is not mentioned, the evil of the house of Ahab nearly consuming Judah gives that picture. You may not agree, but it appears to me that many of the Ecumenical Councils were “reforming-restorative” movements within the Church. It is likely that to St. Athanasius, the Arian-devil had essentially taken over the Church (just to name one example). This remembrance of our past struggles should foster humility. Original sin and it’s attendant consequences (actual sins), knows no boundaries and thrives inside as well as outside the Church, thus our constant need of the grace of humility, tenacity, and the Holy Spirit. My apologies for butting in. May God help us one and all.


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