An Update on Clergy Sex Abuse

 

CBC’s documentary program The Fifth Estate has posted a report on clergy sex abuse in the Archdiocese of Vancouver, which includes a call for Canadian dioceses to publish names of all convicted and credibly accused priests. 

The report refers to a Fifth Estate survey of 59 dioceses in Canada, but does not include any of their responses. The question of publishing names is a complex one. Here is how the Archdiocese of Edmonton responded to the CBC on November 8, 2019:

The Archdiocese of Edmonton conducted a review this year of all files pertaining to sexual abuse by clergy who served within its boundaries from 1947 to 2018. We also engaged an objective third party to review the accuracy this work, and to offer an analysis of some of the worst cases. In parallel to this work, we have conducted a comprehensive review of our abuse prevention policies and protocols with an eye to clarifying them and assuring our people that abuse will not be tolerated. 

Most importantly, we have consulted with several victims and families of victims, particularly on the subject of publishing the names of offenders in cases where there has been no criminal charge or conviction. Without exception, they have advised us that publication of names of these offenders and details of the offences would serve only to re-traumatize them. Many had decided not to report their complaints to police and/or explicitly requested that there be no publicity of their complaints. This is not surprising, given that a court trial can be traumatic and that only 12% of all sexual assaults reported by police lead to a criminal conviction.
(Statistics Canada figures for 2009-2014

The Archdiocese of Edmonton is first and foremost committed to assisting any and all victims with their healing, and respecting their requests for privacy. Archbishop Richard Smith put it this way:

“What you experienced should never have happened, and we are profoundly sorry. We know that such abuse leaves a long and lasting scar, not only on you, the individual victim, but also on your family. As we continue to move forward on this issue, it is your interest that must, and will, come first in everything we do.”

Our file review does enable us to assure our people that no priest who has been credibly accused of sexual abuse of a child is serving in active ministry in the Archdiocese of Edmonton.

We also require training in abuse prevention and reporting for every priest, seminarian, employee and volunteer in the Archdiocese to ensure as much as we can that this never happens again.

When it comes to publication of names, it is important to note also that laws in Canada and the United States differ. For example, journalists in Canada do not normally name an alleged offender unless he has been criminally charged. It is also worth noting that there has been no uniform approach to publishing names by dioceses and religious orders in the U.S. The Archdiocese of Edmonton will consider a variety of factors in any decision to publish names.   

The Archdiocese of Edmonton continues to examine the issues around sexual abuse and the lessons learned. In discerning how best to confront the evil of sexual abuse, we are grateful for the assistance of victims, our faithful, and the media.

If you wish to report abuse by a priest or anyone else working on behalf of the Archdiocese, we invite you to make a confidential complaint to 877-770-6777 and encourage you to report to police as well.

CCCB Update

The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops has posted an update on how the bishops are implementing guidelines on protecting minors from sexual abuse. In the statement dated November 15, they also address the question of publishing names of priests who have been credibly accused but not criminally charged and/or convicted:

"There remains an important question to consider related to the publication of names of the “credibly accused” who have not been charged and convicted. It is evident that a simple “yes” or “no” answer cannot be given to such a complex matter when seen through the lens of privacy laws (at the federal and provincial levels), the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and the well-being of victims-survivors (some of whom do not wish for the names of their offenders to be published for fear they themselves will be re-victimized or identified). Bishops are obliged to weigh all of these factors as they discern their individual responses to this question.

"The process by which each Canadian diocese/eparchy seeks the appropriate solution will also often involve consultation with experts from a variety of professions, other faith groups and neighbouring dioceses/eparchies and, most importantly, victims-survivors. The members of the CCCB’s new Standing Committee for Responsible Ministry, the Protection of Minors and Vulnerable Adults, with backgrounds ranging from child protection/safeguarding, psychology, law, and also including victims-survivors, will continue to examine this question, among others, as it begins its work in 2020."

Download the full CCCB Update (PDF 2 pages)