How priests and deacons should protect their rights
A. If the Vicar for Clergy (or another diocesan official) summons you to a
meeting after informing you that you have been accused of sexual abuse or
other misconduct; or, if you are summoned to a meeting without being given
1) Immediately find yourself a competent canon lawyer.
2) You should also talk to a civil attorney, especially if there is a
possibility of a criminal case.
3) Take your civil attorney, your canonist or another reputable individual
such as a fellow priest with you to the meeting. This will provide you with
an independent witness to the proceedings and will limit the possibility
that the meeting is mischaracterized or inappropriately interpreted at a
later date. You should never go by yourself.
4) Request that the Vicar for Clergy put the purpose of the meeting,
including any and all specific allegations, in writing. If the Vicar for
Clergy refuses to comply with this request, and you and your counsel decide
to meet nonetheless, take careful notes. Immediately after the meeting,
compose a document summarizing your notes and stating that the Vicar for
Clergy refused to disclose the purpose of the meeting beforehand and/or that
no specific allegations were provided to you in writing. Request that the
Vicar for Clergy enter this document into your personnel file at the
5) Know that nothing you say to any agent of the diocese is considered
legally confidential. Make no statements before consulting with your
canonist and your attorney.
6) During the meeting, neither confirm nor deny anything; nor make any
decisions or agreements. Just listen.
7) Inform the Vicar for Clergy that you will expect to review your entire
diocesan personnel file, and any other records kept about you in the
Chancery, Tribunal, or Vicar for Clergy office, when you meet. It is
possible that your file contains written complaints or allegations about
which you were never informed, even though you have the right to be informed
of any such allegations. This is very often ignored.