Katoliku Kirik Eestis



GUIDELINES FOR THE PROTECTION OF MINORS AND FOR DEALING WITH CASES OF SEXUAL ABUSES OF MINORS PERPETRATED IN CATHOLIC PARISHES OR IN ACTIVITIES RELATED WITH THE APOSTOLIC ADMINISTRATION OF ESTONIA

1. Introduction

Although no cases of sexual abuse have been reported or detected in the Estonian Catholic Church, following the directives issued by the Holy See, we have prepared these guidelines both to prevent and to act – if necessary – against this terrible crime. This document is intended for the priests of the Catholic Church in Estonia, all Catholics and authorities in general. We want it to be a sign of our commitment to prevent this kind of offense, and at the same time a clear indication that the Estonian Catholic Church will fully satisfy its obligations under the law of the Estonian Republic and under the law of the Catholic Church. While we thank God for the faithfulness of our priests, we pledge to make every possible effort so that any case of abuse may never occur in the Apostolic Administration of Estonia.

These guidelines begin with a section that contains the basic theological ideas of the Church about man and sexuality. It is followed by a section which shows how we define “child” and “sexual assault”, a section that deals with signs of sexual abuse and a section that explains how to recognize possible perpetrators. In the next section it is determined who is the person responsible for this matter in this Apostolic Administration. Subsequent sections deal with how we shall respond to an accusation or suspicion of sexual abuse, which support should be given to those who have been exposed, and how other stakeholders should be informed. Then is treated the action to be taken against the person accused or suspected and what should occur during and after the investigations and legal trial. Finally there is a section on pastoral care in these contexts and a number of important points for the prevention of sexual abuse as well as false accusations.

2. Some theological keynotes

a. God has created man by love and to love. This theological insight can help us to deepen our understanding of God and man. But God's creation has been hurt and damaged by sin. God sent his Son into the world to reconcile creation with Himself, to manifest the fullness of his love and to restore human dignity. God conveys his grace and forgiveness to the everyone who accepts it, but we know that the struggle against sin remains lifelong.

b. Enlightened by Jesus words “let the children come to me,” the Church has always reflected over children's role and their importance, as well as it has pointed out and defended child's unique dignity. The Church therefore considers child sexual abuse as one of the most heinous crimes against mankind and therefore against God himself.

c. The word abuse is referred to a variety of actions, ranging from purely physical violence to causing mental anguish. Often it is referred to an adult that tries to achieve immoral objectives by exploiting child's credulity and trust. We can also talk of abuse when authority is used in a contemptuous and disrespectful manner and it harms a child because of its weakness and dependence. A sexual assault occurs when an adult uses the child to satisfy his own sexual desires. Of course, none of these abuses – even of different moral gravity – may ever be tolerated in any context, but must always be condemned as a serious offense against a child and against its Creator.

d. When the Church reflects on the child's role and importance, she starts from the theological basic idea that human beings are created in God's image (Genesis 1:27). This likeness of God means that every man is a person, a unique individual with inviolable dignity. The free will that God has given man allows him to portray life in a good way – with due respect for life's inherent laws. In his relationship with other human beings he must act and treat them as subjects. This means that no one should consider and treat a fellow human as an object, that is, to exploit any person for their own purposes. Abuse is rooted precisely in the lack of respect for a fellow man or woman as a person.

e. Man has an inviolable dignity for the duration of his existence, that is from conception to natural death. Unfortunately, this is not always respected. Child's dependence on the adults as well as its weakness and his yet undeveloped autonomy makes the child a vulnerable creature. A child is entitled to grow up in an environment where it can acquire security and faith in life and people. Responsibility for this goes normally to the child's parents and other adults in the child's environment. But we know that many children are damaged by adults. Therefore, the Church and the society work together to protect and safeguard children's human dignity.

f. Awareness of inviolability of human dignity is confirmed by the faith of God's incarnation in Jesus Christ. By becoming man, God has shown us how human life is meant to be. In the Gospel we see Jesus always defending the victim. Therefore, the children have a significant place in the kingdom of God: “Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs” (Mark 10:14). In another opportunity Jesus portrays a child in the center and says: “Anyone who welcomes a little child such as this in my name, welcomes me; and anyone who welcomes me, welcomes not me but the one who sent me” (Mark 9:37). To receive a child is equivalent to receiving God. This attitude must be reflected in our behavior towards the children. As a powerful and practical way to remind us the consequences of an opposite behavior Jesus says: “But anyone who is the downfall of one of these little ones who have faith in me would be better drowned in the depths of the sea with a great millstone round his neck” (Matthew 18:6) and “see that you never despise any of these little ones” (Matthew 18:10).

g. God has created man as male and female. Man and woman are called to imitate God in love and fellowship. Through sexuality, which is a gift of God, man and woman express and confirm their love for one another. The Catechism of the Catholic Church points this out with the following words: “The union of man and woman in marriage is a way of imitating in the flesh the Creator's generosity and fecundity” (n. 2335). Therefore, according to teaching of the Church, sexuality is a gift that must be used only within the lifelong covenant of marriage. Within marriage, love and respect for each other, fidelity and communion of life and fertility, pleasure and joy are truly developed. All this is possible only when the spouses consider and treat each other as a person. To offend or to exploit each other is incompatible with the self– giving community that marriage is.

h. As with many other gifts of God, man can abuse the gift of sexuality and thereby cause harm. When a child who is not yet ready for adult sexuality is exploited by an adult, this is an abuse and a profound violation of the child, often causing incurable wounds for a lifetime. Such abuse is a crime against a child as a person and a serious violation of God's law. If priests – or other Church employees or volunteers – are guilty of abuse, this involves an even bigger loss because the clergy – and others working in the Church – enjoy much confidence.

The Church leaders must always take action to protect the child from abuse. But when, despite all efforts, a case of abuse occurs, the Church leaders must take immediately action against the person accused by ensuring that police report is made, and cooperating with the civil authorities during the investigation and trial. It is also important that the Church leaders fully apply the criminal laws that exist in the Church's own law, the Canon law. The Church must not act in a way that could be interpreted as a desire to silence and cover up any incident. Concern for the child and the family must come first. These rules are an expression of the responsibility that the Apostolic Administration of Estonia takes to prevent and to take swift and decisive action if a violation would still happen.

i. We must finally not forget that God's mercy encompasses all people, even those who have committed a serious crime. Jesus Christ's sacrifice on Cross has the power to forgive even the gravest sins. But forgiveness requires sincere repentance and the desire for reparation. Those who commit sexual abuse must openly acknowledge their debt and answer for their crimes, both before the civil courts and before the Church. Those who commit sexual abuse must also endeavor to personally atone for their actions by submitting to civil and ecclesiastical punishment, and through prayer and penance.

3. Definitions of “child” and of “sexual abuse”

The crimes of sexual abuse perpetrated by clerics against children are considered by the Catholic Church as one of the more grave delicts against morals and so reserved to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (cf. Motu proprio Sacramentorum sanctitatis tutela (SST) art. 6, § 1).

In these guidelines, we use the term “child” under the definition of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the motu proprio SST. A child is thus every human being below the age of 18. If the age of a person is unknown and there is reason to believe that the person is below the age of eighteen years, the person shall be deemed to be a child until proven otherwise. (Child Protection Act, § 3 (2))

In these guidelines, the notion of “sexual abuse of minors” should concur with the definition of the article 6 of the motu proprio SST: “the delict against the sixth commandment of the Decalogue committed by a cleric with a minor below the age of eighteen years.” It should be noted that, according to the same article of the motu proprio SST “a person who habitually lacks the use of reason is to be considered equivalent to a minor”. Vulnerable persons, that is any person in a state of infirmity, physical or mental deficiency, or deprivation of personal liberty which, in fact, even occasionally, limits their ability to understand or to want or otherwise resist the offense, are included under this definition. A cleric who commits the delicts mentioned above is to be punished by the Church according to the gravity of his crime, not excluding dismissal or deposition.

Pursuant to § 3 (1) and § 6 (1) of the Child Protection Act, persons who come into contact with children have a duty to ensure the rights and well-being of the child, to support the child's full development, including sexual development, and health. A child in conditions that pose a risk to health and well-being must be guaranteed timely and appropriate assistance. The Child Protection Act (§ 24) prohibits child abuse. Neglect of a child, mental, emotional, physical and sexual abuse of a child, including humiliation, frightening and physical punishment of a child, also punishment of a child in any other manner which endangers his or her mental, emotional or physical health is prohibited. (§ 24 (1))

The following acts are also criminal under the provisions of Chapter 9 Section 7 and of Chapter 10 Section 1 of the Estonian Penal Code, cited below:

§ 141. Rape
(1) Sexual intercourse with a person against his or her will by using force or taking advantage of a situation in which the person is not capable of initiating resistance or comprehending the situation
is punishable by one to six years’ imprisonment.
(2) The same act:
1) if committed against a person of less than eighteen years of age;
2) if committed by a group;
3) if serious damage is thereby caused to the health of the victim;
4) it causes the death of the victim;
5) it leads the victim to suicide or a suicide attempt; or
6) if committed by a person who has previously committed a criminal offence provided in this Division; or
7) if committed by the offender by taking advantage of the situation caused to the victim by means of narcotic or psychotropic substances in which the person is not capable of initiating resistance or comprehending the situation
is punishable by six to fifteen years’ imprisonment.

§ 141-1. Act of sexual nature against will

§ 143. Compelling person to engage in sexual intercourse or other act of sexual nature
(1) Sexual intercourse or commission of another act of sexual nature with a person against his or her will by taking advantage of the dependency of the victim on the offender but without using force or outside a situation where the person was not capable of initiating resistance or comprehending the situation as provided for in §§ 141 or 141-1 of this Code,
is punishable by up to three years’ imprisonment.
(2) The same act, if committed by a person who has previously committed a criminal offence provided for in this Division,
is punishable by up to five years’ imprisonment.

§ 143-2. Sexual intercourse or other act of sexual nature using influence
(1) Engagement in sexual intercourse or commission of another act of sexual nature by an adult person with a person of less than eighteen years of age by taking advantage of the dependency of the victim on the offender or with abuse of influence or confidence but without using force or outside a situation where the person was not capable of initiating resistance or comprehending the situation as provided for in §§ 141 or 141-1 of this Code,
is punishable by two to eight years’ imprisonment.
(2) The same act, if committed by a person who has previously committed a criminal offence provided for in this Division,
is punishable by three to eight years’ imprisonment.

§ 145. Sexual intercourse or other act of sexual nature with child
(1) Engagement in sexual intercourse or commission of another act of sexual nature by an adult person with a person of less than fourteen years of age
is punishable by up to five years’ imprisonment.
(2) The same act, if committed by a person who has previously committed a criminal offence provided for in this Division,
is punishable by two to eight years’ imprisonment.

§ 145-1. Buying sex from minors
(1) Engaging in sexual intercourse or committing another act of sexual nature with a person of less than eighteen years of age for monetary payment or any other benefit
is punishable by up to three years’ imprisonment.
(2) An act specified in subsection (1) of this section, if committed against a person of less than fourteen years of age,
is punishable by up to five years’ imprisonment.
(3) The act specified in subsections (1) and (2) of this section, if it was committed by a person who has previously committed a criminal offence provided for in this Division,
is punishable by two to eight years’ imprisonment.

§ 147. Inability of person of less than ten years to comprehend
Within the meaning of the offences provided for in this Division, a person is deemed to be incapable to comprehend if he or she is less than ten years of age.

§ 153-1. Sexual harassment
(1) An intentional physical act of sexual nature against the will of another person committed against him or her with degrading objectives or consequences
is punishable by a fine of up to 300 fine units or by detention.

4. Acquisition, possession or distribution by a cleric of pornographic images of minors

“Child pornography” means any representation of a minor, regardless of the means used, involved in explicit sexual activities, whether real or simulated, and any representation of sexual organs of minors for primarily sexual purposes. Engaging in child pornography is a criminal offense under Chapter 11 Section 2 of the Estonian Penal Code (§ 175; see also Child Protection Act, § 25) and constitutes a very serious offense under the Church's own law. The motu proprio SST (art. 6, § 1, 2°) states that: “The acquisition, possession or distribution by a cleric of pornographic images of minors under the age of eighteen, for purposes of sexual gratification, by whatever means or using whatever technology” should be counted between one of those more grave delicts against morals which are reserved to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

In addition to this, if a priest – or another person working in the Church – should be suspected guilty of child pornography offenses, this shall be communicated to the police. The Estonian Penal Code paragraphs corresponding to these provisions are cited below:

§ 175-1. Requesting access to child pornography and watching thereof
(1) Knowingly requesting access to child pornography or knowingly watching a pornographic performance involving a person younger than eighteen years of age or of a pornographic or erotic performance involving a person younger than fourteen years of age
is punishable by a pecuniary punishment or up to two years' imprisonment.
(2) The same act, if committed by a person who has previously committed a criminal offence provided for in this section or §§ 175 or 178-179,
is punishable by up to three years’ imprisonment.

§ 178. Manufacture of works involving child pornography or making child pornography available
(1) Manufacture, acquisition or storing, handing over, displaying or making available to another person in any other manner of pictures, writings or other works or reproductions of works depicting a person of less than eighteen years of age in a pornographic situation, or a person of less than fourteen years of age in a pornographic or erotic situation,
is punishable by a pecuniary punishment or up to three years’ imprisonment.
(1-1) The same act if committed by a person who has previously committed a criminal offence provided for in this section or §§ 175, 175-1, 178-1 or 179
is punishable by one to three years’ imprisonment.

§ 178-1. Agreement of sexual purpose for meeting with child
(1) Making a proposal for meeting a person of less than eighteen years of age who was not capable of comprehending the situation, or a person of less than fourteen years of age, or concluding an agreement to meet him or her, and performance of an act preparing the meeting, if the aim of the meeting is to commit an offence of sexual nature provided for in §§ 133, 133-1, 141-145-1, 175, 175-1, 178 or 179 of this Code with respect to the specified person,
is punishable by a pecuniary punishment or up to three years’ imprisonment.
(1-1) The same act if committed by a person who has previously committed a criminal offence provided for in this section or §§ 175, 175-1, 178 or 179
is punishable by one to three years’ imprisonment.

§ 179. Sexual enticement of children
(1) Handing over, displaying or making otherwise pornographic works or reproductions thereof knowingly available to a person of less than fourteen years of age, or showing sexual abuse to such person or engaging in sexual intercourse in the presence of such person or knowingly sexually enticing such person in any other manner
is punishable by a pecuniary punishment or up to three years’ imprisonment.
(1-1) The same act, if committed by a person who has previously committed a criminal offence provided for in this section or §§ 175, 175-1, 178 or 178-1,
is punishable by one to three years’ imprisonment.

We would also like to point out that certain acts that are not criminal in accordance with the Civil law may constitute sexual abuse according to the Church's own law, Canon law, and therefore can give rise to an ecclesiastical investigation and an ecclesiastical punishment.

5. Signs of Child Abuse

Few children tell by themselves that they have been victims of sexual abuse. They feel shame, anxiety and fear, and may even believe that it is something wrong with them. Often there are no visible marks. According to child and adolescent psychiatric expertises, there is no specific “sexual abuse syndrome”, i.e. features that appear in any child that have been sexually abused while they never occur in children who have not been abused. The development of this features in individual children can be influenced by different factors such as age, gender, personality, the kind of sexual assault and their duration. These signs may also converge with mental health problems that have other causes. Two factors should always give rise to suspicions of sexual abuse when other explanations have been excluded:

• Sexualized behavior (i.e. sexual behavior which is not appropriate to the age, can not be easily diverted and have almost obsessive focus);
• Post–traumatic stress syndrome (i.e. chronically stressful condition in a person who has experienced a severe trauma, and failed to process and integrate it).

Some examples of sexualized behavior:

• Provocative sexual behavior that is not consistent with the child's level of maturity;
• exaggerated interest in sexuality;
• compulsively masturbating.

Some social features (which can occur in various types of abuse):

• Problems to create or maintain relationships with children and/or adults;
• lack of close feelings to parents or other children;
• withdrawn and silent behavior. The child is on guard, especially with adults;
• excessive need for affection;
• exaggerated fear of touch;
• learning and behavioral difficulties.

It must be noted that a single feature can not be considered a “proof” that a child has been subjected to sexual abuse. However, it is important to be attentive to the signals that abused children may provide.

6. The possibility to recognize a perpetrator

There is a false belief that people who commit sexual abuse of children would behave strangely in different ways and that are easy to detect. On the contrary, experience shows that the perpetrators can be very “ordinary” people. There is no simple description of a perpetrator, no definite model that allows comparison between people. Without saying that this is how it always is, some features can be stated about people that, if given the opportunity, may commit sexual assault on children:

• They can come from any social class, occupation, social and economic background;
• they often seek out for jobs or hobbies where they can be near children;
• they are usually “nice” people;
• they “specialize” in children of a certain age and usually either boys or girls;
• they are often well versed in child and adolescent culture, tastes in music and the like;
• they are good at finding and identifying children who are vulnerable and alone and which therefore may feel attracted by friendship with an adult. Often they give the child things that the child cannot otherwise get or buy (no money), such as alcohol, cigarettes, clothes, a cell phone. These things can often be very cheap, like a pack of potato chips;
• often they seek friendship with children who have behavioral or learning difficulties, mental illness and are not adequately supervised by parents or teachers, for example, because they are 'bad children'.

7. Diocesan responsible for the accusations

The responsibility for dealing with cases of sexual abuse of minors belongs, in the first place, to the Apostolic Administrator. In the case an accusation is directly related to the Apostolic Administrator, the person in charge will be the Vicar General of the Apostolic Administration of Estonia. If an accusation seems true, the Apostolic Administration will carry out a preliminary investigation. The Apostolic Administrator can delegate the responsibility to receive reports of child sexual abuse and carry out the preliminary investigation to a Contact Person. The Apostolic Administrator or the Contact Person will act immediately if they judge that the accusations or the suspicions of abuse are reasonable. If necessary, they can consult people with expertise, such as psychologists, lawyers or the diocesan press secretary. However, investigation of accusations is to be done with due respect for the principle of privacy and the good name of the persons involved.

8. The suspicions of sexual abuse

The Apostolic Administrator of Estonia will always be resolute to transparency, accountability and cooperation with state authorities in the investigation and punishment of those crimes. According to this, we encourage that all reasonable suspicions that sexual abuse has been committed by a cleric or employee of this Apostolic Administration must be reported to the police and to the social services, in conformation with the requirements of Estonian law. At the same time, anyone – excluding the priest that becomes aware of the fact in the sacrament of confession – who knows or reasonably suspects that this kind of crime has occurred should also, as soon as possible, report the matter to the Apostolic Administrator. In addition to taking appropriate action to investigate any allegation of sexual abuse, the Apostolic Administration will have as a primary concern the pastoral care of the alleged victim.

If anyone – excluding the priest that becomes aware of the fact in the sacrament of confession – comes to know that a person has an accusation or suspicion of sexual abuse and that that person does not want to or can not contact the Apostolic Administrator, he who has knowledge of the accusation or suspicion must do it so. That he intends to do it must be made clear in a conversation with the person that has the accusation or suspicion. No promises of confidentiality should be given.

Everyone has the right to report a sexual assault to the police. Within the Apostolic Administration, the Apostolic Administrator has the ultimate responsibility for the police report and the notification to the social services. Anyone who has knowledge or suspicion of an assault can also be sent to the Apostolic Administrator to decide about the police report.

The person who reports the delict ought to be treated with respect. In the cases where sexual abuse is connected with another delict against the dignity of the sacrament of Penance (SST art. 4), the one reporting has the right to request that his or her name not be made known to the priest denounced (SST art. 24).

However, unless there are serious contrary indications – as the one indicated above –, even in the course of the preliminary investigation, the accused cleric should be informed of the accusation and provided an opportunity to admit, deny, or explain the facts stated by the person who has made the accusation. The cleric against whom the allegation is made will be told of the right to engage civil and canonical counsel. The Apostolic Administration will also ensure the pastoral care of the accused cleric and encourage him to have a personal support person.

The accused cleric is presumed innocent until the contrary is proven. An allegation against a cleric will not be made public by the Apostolic Administration unless the accused person admits the allegation, or a criminal prosecution is begun, or there is a civil or canonical determination of guilt.

It must be noted that if a priest becomes aware of a sexual assault during confession, he is bound by the confidentiality of the confession. The priest will however ask the penitent to report the abuse to civil and ecclesiastical authorities. Under §§ 306 and 307 of the Penal Code, non-disclosure of a criminal offence in the first degree or failure to report of a criminal offence in the first degree is punishable. All persons who have knowledge of a child in need of assistance are required to notify of the child in need of assistance. (Child Protection Act, §§ 26, 27)

9. Support for the victim and other affected

The Apostolic Administration, in consultation with social services, will offer support and assistance to the children who have been sexually abused. For the victim it can become a very long process to heal the wounds of abuse. The Apostolic Administration will contribute, even economically, to this process which may need professional help and availability to therapy. This also applies to others who are directly affected by the abuse, such as the victim's family. In addition, the Apostolic Administration, will inform others indirectly involved in an assault, such as parishioners or a youth group.

10. Actions against the accused or suspected person

Children's safety must take precedence over all other considerations. Wherever an accusation against a cleric – or an employee or a volunteer of the Apostolic Administration – is performed and the police report and the notification to social agencies have been made, the Apostolic Administrator will ensure that there is no risk of child abuse during the investigation. This is done by taking any necessary steps – such as suspension from activities, exclusion from services or other actions required – in order to, as far as possible, ensure children's safety. If the Apostolic Administrator himself is under accusation, he should step down during the duration of the investigation.

The investigation should proceed as follows:

a. When a person alleges that he or she is a victim of a cleric or employee of this Apostolic Administration, the Apostolic Administrator or the Contact Person designed by him will invite the person to meet at a time and place of the person's convenience to discuss the allegation.

b. During that meeting, the person is to be treated with dignity and respect. The person will be welcomed, listened to and supported, offered spiritual and medical assistance. Protection of the person’s good name and privacy, as well as the confidentiality of his or her personal data, must be ensured. If the victim is a female, a woman will also take part of the meeting.

c. Without prejudice to the sacramental seal, pastoral workers, assistants and volunteers who have knowledge of a minor being a victim of exploitation, sexual abuse or ill-treatment, shall inform the Apostolic Administrator directly or through the Contact Person for the protection of minors.

d. The Apostolic Administrator shall ask the person to formalize in writing the accusations or suspicions of abuse.

e. If the alleged wrongdoer is a cleric that belongs to a different Dioceses, is a member of an Institute of consecrated life or of a Society of apostolic life, the Apostolic Administrator, having received the report, shall communicate it without delay to the Ordinary or Major Superior of the person reported.

f. Whenever the report is not manifestly unfounded, the Apostolic Administrator shall remove the presumed wrongdoer from the pastoral activities and start a diligent investigation.

g. In the course of the proceedings, the criminal conduct, the personal data and the age of the offended persons, the damage caused and the possible connection with the sacramental forum shall be verified. Documents, evidence and testimonies from the various areas and spaces where the suspected person has operated can be collected.

h. When the investigation is concluded the Apostolic Administrator will assert the credibility of the person who has made the allegation, the credibility of the accused person, and the steps recommended to be taken.

i. If the offender is a cleric, an ecclesiastical process must be immediately started. Once the preliminary investigation has been completed, the Apostolic Administrator shall communicate the matter to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith which, unless it calls the case to itself due to particular circumstances, will direct the Apostolic Administrator how to proceed further (cf. SST, art. 16). These directives, of course, will be related only with the canonical procedures and eventual canonical punishments, and will never interfere with the judicial inquiry. Canonical punishments may include demission from the clerical state, i.e. the minister may not continue to perform its role as a priest (SST art. 6, § 2).

The victim of an abuse has the right to intervene in canonical procedures as an injured party, and therefore, the right to bring a contentious action to repair damages incurred personally from the delict, within the same canonical process (cf. CIC, canon 1729).

Even if the offense on which the accusation is made is time barred under civil law (Penal Code, § 81), an ecclesiastical investigation of the accusations should be conducted anyway. In Canon Law prescription in the case of abuse of minors, is set for 20 years calculated from the completion of the 18th year of age of the victim, but, in individual cases, the Church is able to derogate this prescription.

A person determined by the Apostolic Administrator shall maintain contact with and support the accused as well as inform him on how the undertaken investigation progresses.

11. After the completion of the civil investigation

A legal investigation can of course result in different outcomes. These have great importance for the Apostolic Administration to act against a person accused of having committed sexual offenses against children. Four possible outcomes can be distinguished:

1°) The indictment against the person accused is dismissed by the court and the Apostolic Administration believes that the person has not committed a sexual assault. If the case so warrants, whatever measures can be taken to rehabilitate the good name of a cleric wrongly accused should be done. This can also mean that the Apostolic Administration may report to the police the name of the person who made the wrong accusation.

2°) After having been indicted, the person accused is convicted in the court for a charge of sexual offenses. As soon as there is a final judgment the Apostolic Administrations should proceed as established in the paragraph below.

3°) The indictment against the person accused is rejected by the court, but the Apostolic Administration believes that it is doubtful if he should continue his ecclesiastical work.

4°) After the police investigation, the case is closed and no charges of sexual offenses are brought before the court.

As regards 2°, 3° and 4° possibilities above mentioned, the Apostolic Administrator will make a risk assessment, in consultation with civil authorities, to examine whether, and if so, in what circumstances the person can continue working within the Apostolic Administration. However, the return of a cleric to public ministry is excluded if such ministry is a danger for minors or a cause of scandal for the community.

At the same time, if a cleric is found to have engaged in an incident of sexual abuse, this Apostolic Administration will encourage him to have diagnostic evaluation and to share the results with the Apostolic Administrator. He will generally be requested to undergo treatment and to engage in an on-going program of personal growth. Any Apostolic Administrator's decisions regarding this cleric will be made with the goal of protecting others from potential abuse. The Apostolic Administration will also ensure the pastoral care of the convicted cleric.

12. Counseling

As mentioned above the Apostolic Administration, in accordance with the social authorities, will offer support and help to those who have been abused and to their families. If the victim and his family are in need of special pastoral cares the Apostolic Administration will immediately see that such help is offered.

Other people in the environment where sexual abuse has been committed may need of special pastoral care. The Apostolic Administration will be specially mindful of, and carefully attend to the pastoral needs of the parish at which the accused person has served. If the Apostolic Administration or an appropriate canonical or civil body determines that the allegation is true, the Apostolic Administration will extend a particular invitation to the parish where the accused person served for other victims of the accused to come forward. A person determined by the Apostolic Administrator should keep in contact with, inform and support the alleged of abuse during investigation.

13. Prevention

In the selection of pastoral workers, the suitability of the candidates to interact with minors must be ascertained through an adequate investigation, as well as by verifying the absence of any previous judicial charges.

All assemblies, groups, parishes and other bodies under the jurisdiction of the Apostolic Administration who work with children and young people will know, use and comply the instructions contained in this document.

Knowledge of how to prevent abuse and what to do if abuse occurs, or accusation of abuse is performed should be included in the courses that people who will work with children and young people are undergoing.

The risk of abuse – as well as false accusations of abuse – can be reduced in various ways, for example performing the following actions:

• An adult, as far as possible, should not be left alone with a minor when there is little or no opportunity for others to see what they do. This is in the interests of both the adult and child.
• Try always to have two adults in any group of activities for minors, especially if no other activities are going on simultaneously in the church or if they operate outside the parish building.
• Anyone who works with minors should not meet with an individual child or youth, in order to build a relationship, in addition to those activities where the child participates.
• Use well illuminated, accessible and open spaces for youth. Leaders shall supervise what are their children doing until they leave the church or any parish hall.
• When children and young people need to travel by car or bus, try, as far as it is possible, to have more than one passenger in each vehicle.
• Try that excursions have a common assembly point, where you pick up and leave the children.
• Caution must be applied by both the visiting and the host when arranging accommodation for children and adolescents. One only child and an adult should not be placed so that they must share a bedroom. At accommodation in any house, at least two children must be placed together.
• Exercise due prudence when communicating with minors, including by telephone or on social networks.
• Inform the parents or guardians of any activities proposed as well as of their practical arrangements.
• Avoid photograph or film a minor without the written consent of his parents or guardians as well as publish or disseminate, including via the web or social networks, images portraying a minor in a recognizable way without the consent of parents or guardians.

These precautions, that are taken to protect children and young people, apply to everyone without exception. It is easy to be lulled into a false sense of security and to believe that priests – us other employees or volunteers – can not be guilty or falsely accused of abuse. Precautions involving thoughtfulness and planning should be applied to minimize the risks for both real and false accusations of abuse. It is naive to believe that abuse or false accusations are not possible in the Church.

14. Summary of the process

1.When a person reasonably suspects that sexual abuse has been committed by a cleric or employee of this Apostolic Administration must report it as soon as possible to the police and the social services, and to the Apostolic Administrator.
2. The Apostolic Administrator will meet the person that alleges that he or she is a victim of a cleric or employee of this Apostolic Administration, at a time and place of the person's convenience to discuss the allegation.
3. The Apostolic Administrator shall ensure the establishment of a written statement of the accusations or suspicions of abuse.
4. The Apostolic Administrator shall perform a diligent investigation about the accusation.
5. The Apostolic Administrator will ensure that there is no risk of child abuse during the investigation, taking any necessary steps – such as suspension from activities, exclusion from services or other actions required – to, as far as possible, ensure children's safety.
6. The accused person should be provided an opportunity to admit, deny, or explain the facts stated by the person who has made the accusation.
7. The person against whom the allegation is made will be told of his or her right to engage civil and canonical counsel.
8. The victim of the abuse should be informed of his o her right to intervene in the canonical procedures as an injured party, and therefore, the right to bring a contentious action to repair damages incurred personally from the delict, within the same canonical process.
9. The Apostolic Administration will ensure (now and in the future) the pastoral care of the accused person and encourage him or her to have a personal support person.
10. The Apostolic Administration will offer spiritual support and professional assistance (now and in the future) to the person who has been sexually abused. A person determined by the Apostolic Administrator should inform him or her on how the undertaken investigation progresses.
11. When the preliminary investigation is finished, the Apostolic Administrator will assert the credibility of the person who has made the allegation, the credibility of the accused person, and the steps to be taken.
12. If the offender is a cleric and the allegation seems true the Apostolic Administrator should communicate the matter to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
13. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith will direct the Apostolic Administrator how to proceed further.
14. An allegation against a cleric or an employee of this Apostolic Administration will not be made public unless the accused person admits the allegation, or a criminal prosecution is begun, or there is a civil or canonical determination of guilt.
15. If that is the case, the Apostolic Administration will be specially mindful of, and carefully attend to, the pastoral needs of the parish at which the accused person has served.
16. If the Catholic Church or a civil court determines that the allegation is true, the Apostolic Administration will, in the parish where the accused person served, extend a particular invitation for other victims of the accused to come forward.
17. If the indictment against the person accused is dismissed by the court and the Apostolic Administration believes that the person has not committed a sexual assault, the Apostolic Administration will take any measures to rehabilitate the good name of person wrongly accused.

 

Social button for Joomla