11Nov Know your rights and obligations

The following was part of the presentation made by Tim Hazelwood at the recent AGM. He spoke of Standard 4, in the Safeguarding Children: Policy and Standards for The Catholic Church in Ireland 2016.

This is what the Guidance document recommends:

Standard 4 – CARE & MANAGEMENT OF THE RESPONDENT.

Guidance On Informing The Respondent (Cleric and Religious) (Indicator 4.2 ):

  • The Church authority should inform the respondent that they will be accompanied by the DLP;
  • The respondent should be informed that they can be accompanied by another person at this meeting for their own support;

Guidance On Informing The Repsondent (Cleric and Religious) (Indicator 4.2):

  • The respondent must be informed of their rights to both canonical and civil legal advice;
  • The respondent must immediately be advised of their right to remain silent – they may admit, deny or decide not to respond at this stage;

Guidance On Informing The Respondent (Cleric and Religious) (Indicator 4.2):

  • A dated, written record of the meeting is forwarded to the respondent for signing. This record should detail what they have been informed of, and their response (if any);
  • The respondent is given written information about the Church procedure, so that they are clear about the process that will be followed.

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Tim said that ‘We have discovered that this document has not been ratified by the Bishops and the heads of the Religious Orders. It is only there to be used, if they feel like it’.

With this in mind, the ACP has today launched an Information Card for priests.

ACP Information Card

  1. When contacted by your Bishop/Superior always insist on knowing what it relates to.
  2. Bring someone with you who is of strong character and aware of the process. (ACP can provide someone.)
  3. We advise you to say nothing at the meeting.
  4. Request the diocese to resource a canon lawyer and civil lawyer of your choosing.
  5. Sign nothing and give no verbal undertaking at the meeting.
  6. Do not be persuaded to ignore or bypass these guidelines no matter how often they say it is in your own best interest.
  7. Ask the person who accompanies you to take notes of the proceedings and to sign them.

These Guidelines are in keeping with recommendations made by The National Board for Safeguarding Children.

Tim continued with his presentation saying ‘The ACP acknowledges the great strides made over the past number of years in safeguarding children in the care of the Catholic Church. Clear and direct policies plus a robust evaluation has meant that the Catholic Church is now a much safer place for children and vulnerable adults. We commend the role played by the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the creation and auditing of these policies.

Despite this progress, the one remaining area of concern is the treatment of accused priests. All we ask is that they be afforded the same due process that is the right of every citizen.

Standard 4, in the safeguarding Children Policy and Standards for The Catholic Church in Ireland 2016, is concerned with “a fair process for investigating and managing child safeguarding concerns.”

We are asking that the Guidance document for the implementation of Standard 4, a document that has been prepared by the National Board, and which by and large, has been ignored, be ratified as policy for all dioceses and religious orders. We are also calling for the National Board to audit Standard 4, which deals with the care and management of the accused priest, to oversee the implementation of this particular standard as it does all the other standards.’

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