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November 2016




For responding to complaints of abuse, the Commission has developed a Template for local Guidelines, which include the following principles:

  • These should be based on a commitment to establishing the truth and to working towards healing.

  • There should be a clear statement about compliance with the requirements of civil authorities and Church authorities. Where episcopal conferences include more than one country or a country with a federal structure – it should be clearly stated that the Church will comply with the relevant authority. This should include any civil requirements on mandatory reporting.

  • In defining sexual abuse the guidelines must refer to the definition in the Motu Proprio Sacramentorum Sanctitatis Tutela (SST).

  • The procedures should make it clear that they are applied to clergy and religious.

  • Procedures will also be necessary for all lay employees and volunteers who have access to minors and vulnerable adults in the course of their work for the Church. If there are separate policies and procedures for each category of personnel, all shall be compiled in one location such as a manual or booklet.

  • There should be a clear statement about referral of criminal behaviour to the police or relevant authority.

  • Procedures will be necessary for investigating complaints not referred to the police – for example when the accused person has died, when the behaviour complained of is not illegal in state law but breaches the Church’s code of conduct, or when the police have investigated but are not intending to prosecute.

  • Investigative procedures should be robust and transparent. Experience suggests that these should include suitably experienced and skilled lay people to ensure independence.

  • The procedures should include arrangements to provide appropriate support to the person reporting abuse or suspicion of abuse.

  • The procedures should include appropriate support for the accused person.

  • The procedures should include precautionary measures, such as a temporary withdrawal from ministry, where the accused is a cleric (deacon, priest, bishop) the process must follow the requirements of SST.

  • The procedures should set out the outcomes for complainants.

  • The procedures should set out the how the outcome of all complaints will be shared with the complainant, the faithful and the public.

  • The procedures should set out the outcomes for the accused – if the accused is a cleric then these should include the provisions of SST on reports to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

  • The procedures should include provision for the complainant and the accused to seek a review of the outcome.

  • The Guidelines should make it clear that the Church does not wish hide complaints or buy a victims/survivor’s silence and dioceses and religious congregations are not to enter into settlements that bind the parties to confidentiality, unless the victim/survivor requests confidentiality, and this request is noted in the text of the agreement.