Chapter 5 continued
Fairness to Victims and Survivors
5.15 Because of the rules of English civil
law, most juridical persons within the Catholic Church in England
and Wales hold their property in charitable trusts. This means
that when the question of compensation and support for those
who have been abused – and the two are quite distinct
– are involved, there will be a need for recourse to insurance
companies and lawyers, and to what may seem rather anonymous
and impersonal procedures. However, professional involvement
at this stage must not render impossible the individual’s
need for a personal approach and a recognition of the distress
felt. In our view the present system, whereby each juridical
person in the Church is responsible for any mistakes it has
made, should act as a spur to promote good practice in the future.
5.16 We have heard from a number of victims
and those speaking on their behalf who believe that the involvement
of some insurance companies has in the past put impediments
in the way of the Church responding to them in ways that are
in keeping with the Church’s own spiritual and pastoral
ethos and with what is regarded as good welfare practice. Lord
Nolan stressed the importance of a One Church approach to safeguarding.
Clearly each juridical person within the Church is free to buy
insurance wherever he or she wishes; however, it is imperative
that all follow the good practice enshrined in national policies
on responding to allegations and supporting those who have been
abused and that the appropriate insurance cover is built around
these welfare policies.
The National Safeguarding Commission should commission the
Catholic Church Insurance Association to conduct an urgent
review of insurance arrangements with the aim of moving towards
a One Church policy on insurance matters. This review should
not be an impediment to a just resolution of current cases.
Individual dioceses and religious congregations should not
commit themselves to respond to allegations in a way that
contravenes national policies.
5.17 A special word needs to be said about
those coming forward and alleging abuse that took place many
years ago. We understand that these allegations – otherwise
referred to as “historic cases” - represent the
majority of disclosures that are being made today. A person
making an allegation has the same right to have truth acknowledged
and justice done in an historic case as in a current case –
whether or not the alleged abuser has since died – and
this needs to be clearly stated, and acted upon in national
policies and in the current review of ‘past’ cases
where a previous investigation may have taken place but the
outcome is considered to be unsatisfactory.
5.18 We recognise, however, that to those
making such allegations it may appear that they have not been
treated with the care and attention they feel they deserve.
The reality is that achieving a satisfactory outcome to the
investigations of an historic allegation will often be difficult:
evidence may be stale, the health of alleged abusers may be
precarious, or they may be dead. Juridical persons in the Church
may have been under-insured at the time in question. As a consequence
insurance companies may be reluctant to provide fi nancial and
other forms of therapeutic support let alone offer compensation.
Nonetheless, the Church has the same obligation to speak the
truth, to express its sorrow for past failings and to ensure
protection of today’s children against possible abuse.
Some concerns of those who have been abused
5.19 One of the main concerns expressed by
those bringing forward allegations of abuse is that this should
not be allowed to happen again; in asking for stringent measures
in respect of those who have committed abuse in the past, they
are showing their care and concern for the children of today.
The Church must listen to such concerns and the Church must
continue to invite victims of abuse to come forward, even if
it has not always succeeded in responding to them as well as
it should have done. That invitation should remain open, and
should not be frustrated by “confi dentiality agreements”
where these are designed to prevent others from disclosing what
has happened to them.
5.20 It is also important for the Church
to ensure that anyone making an allegation of abuse against
a member of the Church does not inadvertently encounter the
alleged perpetrator. In protecting the reputation of the priesthood
and the integrity of the Church’s worship, great care
needs to be taken to ensure that full and clear instructions
are given to a priest against whom an allegation is made and
who is, for that reason, temporarily removed from active ministry.
Any risk assessment undertaken, and treatment given, before
a priest is able to return to active Ministry should be routinely
informed by any statement the victim has given either to the
statutory authorities or the Church in conducting its own enquiries.
Where removal from post is permanent – either for a priest
or anyone else working for the Church – because of concerns
about their suitability to work with children or vulnerable
adults the Church must always ensure that such information is
given in any reference asked for.
5.21 Finally, we are only too aware of the
pressure sometimes placed on those who have suffered abuse to
forgive those who have abused them. This is unhelpful for several
reasons. First the victim may not yet have reached the stage
where he or she is able to forgive. Secondly forgiveness given
under pressure may do considerably more to perpetuate the harm
suffered by the victim. Thirdly, the perpetrator may not be
ready to accept the consequences of forgiveness, which must
necessarily include acceptance of the wrong that has been done
and will often include a readiness to accept treatment and both
criminal and canonical penalties. We are reminded that:
“It is important for the good name of the Church
that the faithful know that: - misconduct has specific consequences
and that such specifi c consequences will apply according
to the law; - harmful or scandalous ministry will not be allowed.”34
The Church should not ask victims to sign a “confidentiality
agreement” if the purpose is to inhibit other victims
from coming forward or to conceal abuse when this has been
established in a court of law.
When a priest is asked or required to withdraw from active
ministry on account of an allegation being made against him,
or when a priest is allowed only restricted ministry, it must
be made clear in a written agreement what sacramental ministry
is permitted to him, bearing in mind the circumstances and
the place where he will be located.
When a priest or religious is asked or required to live in
a different place on account of an allegation being made against
him or her, it is imperative that he or she should not have
access to the victim/complainant or other children or vulnerable
adults pending the resolution of the case.
An allegation made against a person who is dead or not capable
of responding to the allegation should be listened to by the
Church and investigated as far as possible. This should be
done even though it will often be difficult to establish the
truth; the statutory authorities may not be willing to investigate
the matter; and even though it may be impossible to sustain
claims for compensation.
The information given by the victim in any statement to the
statutory authorities and/ or Church investigating an allegation
of abuse should be made available routinely to those involved
in the risk assessment and treatment of the abuser.
If a person has been removed from working for the Church because
of concerns about his suitability for work with children,
this should be stated if a reference is given for that person.
|Mgr C J Scicluna ‘Clerical
Rights and Duties in the Jurisprudence and Praxis of the
Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’, paper
delivered in Budapest, 2007.