HEARING THEIR CRY (Part 2)
27 Sep 2016
Ten Points of Change in the Diocese of Armidale
As future priests, seminarians are exposed to a lengthy evaluation process both before being accepted into the Seminary and during their training. These evaluations are undertaken by senior clergy, lay people, seminary staff, professional staff and myself. Seminarians are not accepted directly out of school and they have post-secondary school experience in work and education.
Their formation includes independent psychological assessments. The suitability of candidates for ordination is discussed with seminary staff and other advisors. I do not and would not ordain a candidate against the advice of the seminary staff or other advisors.
2. Clergy Professional Development
Each year experienced experts provide professional development in Professional Standards to the Diocesan clergy. This professional development is practical and aimed at providing clergy with the skills and knowledge they need to operate according to the standards and requirements of “Integrity in Ministry” (the document of principles and standards for Catholic Clergy and Religious in Australia).
It is also aimed at supporting them in their role as leaders of the parish in ensuring that parish staff and volunteers also receive the required training and assistance.
3. Child Safe Parish Communities
The focus of the Diocese is on creating child safe Parish communities. The Diocese has been developing policies and procedures appropriate for both Diocesan and parish use. There is a recognition that parish communities are made up of many different people who are in different roles.
Each component part of a parish has a responsibility to work together to keep children safe.
4. Reporting Protocols
All parishes and Diocesan Church Agencies have been provided with reporting protocols. All allegations of criminal behaviour are reported to Police by the Diocese. Parishes and agencies are required to report all allegations of both criminal behaviour and improper conduct to the Chancery Office to ensure a permanent record is kept of the allegations and the subsequent reporting to Police and/or other appropriate statutory authority such as the NSW Ombudsman’s Office.
5. Professional Standards Advisory Panel
I have established a Diocesan Professional Standards Advisory Panel to advise me on all matters relating to child protection and the professional standards requirements of clergy. The panel members include both male and female lay people. The panel is forthright in its advice to me.
Through this panel any allegation received is monitored and managed. I do not in any circumstances attempt to manage any allegation by myself All information is shared within this confidential panel.
6. Role of Diocesan Chancellor
I have included responsibility for professional standards, child protection and safeguarding within the role of the Chancellor of the Diocese. This position is held by a lay woman. Any allegation of improper behaviour or conduct is initially reviewed and actioned by the Diocesan Chancellor.
7. Responding to Allegations
I wish to assure you that in the event of an allegation of abuse being made against a priest, that priest would immediately be stood down from all duties until the proper investigations were concluded. If a sustained allegation was made against them they would not be returned to public ministry and their faculties would be removed. If appropriate, I as the Bishop of Armidale, would petition the Holy See to have that member of the clergy dismissed and laicised.
8. Adherence to National Standards
The Diocese of Armidale follows the Towards Healing protocols; is party to the Commitment of Catholic Leaders statement; and adheres to the Guidelines for Church Authorities in responding to civil claims for child sexual abuse. In keeping with these guidelines the Diocese respects the choice of survivors to approach it in a variety of ways with outcomes tailored for each individual.
*These documents are available on our website: http://armidale.catholic.org.au/royal-commission/
9. Compensation and a Personal Approach
In addition to the Diocese making payment of legitimate compensation claims without the need for litigation, I have met with abuse victims and survivors and their family members. I have listened to their story, acknowledged the impact of the abuse on them and apologised to them. When survivors choose not to meet with me, the offer of a meeting remains open to them, so that they may do so if and when they choose and feel able.
If you are a survivor or family member
and if you have not already done so,
please come forward and meet with me.
I want to hear your story.
I want to personally apologise to you and support you.
10. Ongoing Support to Survivors
One area where our Diocese still needs to improve is in providing appropriate ongoing support for survivors. To remedy this the Diocese is in the process of partnering with established services including Zimmerman Services in the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle and the Healing & Support Services in the Diocese of Parramatta. These partnerships recognise that the Diocese of Armidale does not have the capacity to provide such comprehensive professional support to survivors, but wishes to do so to the best of our ability.
These changes are part of an ongoing and active
engagement by me in the Diocese
to ensure that we are constantly improving our practices
and bringing about change in the way we all think and act.