Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of October 25, 2004
Abuse reports asks Canada's bishop to be accountable
By ART BABYCH
Canadian Catholic News
Catholic bishops in Canada should be more accountable and transparent in the face of allegations and incidents of sexual abuse by clergy, says a co-chair of a special task force of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB).
"Bishops are responsible and they must be seen to be responsible," Archbishop James Weisgerber told prelates attending the CCCB's annual assembly Oct. 19.
"We have a tradition in a sense that the bishop doesn't account to anybody," he said. "And in a society such as ours this doesn't work any longer."
Weisgerber and Bishop Eugene Tremblay of Amos, Que., were commenting on the confidential interim report they submitted to the bishops as co-chairs of a 11-member special task force reviewing From Pain to Hope, the CCCB's 1992 guidelines for dealing with sexual abuse in the Church.
"Transparency means that we have to be very clear," Weisgerber said. "We have to tell people what we're doing. We have to be clear that the main objects of our concern are the victims, their families, the parishes. We've got to make a very strong statement about that."
The main focus of From Pain to Hope was how to deal with perpetrators, Weisgerber noted. However, "There is some feeling among the victims we' ve talked to that the victims have been somewhat ignored or dealt with poorly by the dioceses."
He said one victim he interviewed told him she felt abandoned by the Church. "There was no outreach from the Church to her," he said.
The archbishop said bishops also need to be "quite a lot clearer about what, as bishops, we do with people who have been charged and found guilty in a court of law."
Bishops should be "unequivocal about the fact that anybody who has been charged and found guilty in a court of law for an abuse against a minor can never be returned to ministry where minors are involved," he said.
In 2002, Bishop Fred Henry of Calgary apologized for not telling the congregation of a local church about the history of a priest convicted of sexually assaulting a teenage boy 16 years earlier. The priest resigned after angry parishioners who learned of his background picketed the church where he was assigned.
The special task force is to submit its final report to the bishops' assembly next year. Tremblay said "concrete actions" that the bishops can take would be included.
Copyright © 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 -- Western Catholic Reporter
Our mission: To serve our readers by bringing the Gospel to bear on current issues in the Church and in secular culture through accurate news coverage and reflective commentary.