By Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News
Bishop Mark Hagemoen of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon has welcomed the updated and expanded national guidelines for the protection of minors and vulnerable persons, which were unanimously adopted by the Canadian Catholic Conference of Bishops (CCCB) Sept. 27 during their 2018 annual Plenary Assembly in Cornwall, ON.
Protecting Minors from Sexual Abuse: A Call to the Catholic Faithful in Canada for Healing, Reconciliation, and Transformation is the title of the national document publicly released Oct. 4, 2018. It is an update of the previous document From Pain to Hope adopted by Canada’s Catholic bishops in 1992, as well as a 2007 follow-up document.
“The purpose of this new document, as with the previous ones, is to inform the various policies and protocols of each individual diocese. This is a reference document that helps us do the policy work at a local diocesan level,” said Bishop Hagemoen. “So, this is very important and helpful.”
Large in scope, the new national document is purposefully focused on the protection of minors, noted the bishop. “Of course, there are other implications of this, which relate not just to sexual abuse, but all forms of abuse, and with a view to making our environments safe for everyone – yes, with a particular focus on minors, but also for all people who are part of the life of our church communities.”
The document benefits from a number of learned best practices since From Pain to Hope was released more than 25 years ago, he added. For instance, the new document more clearly emphasizes the need to put victims first, and to deal pastorally with those who have been hurt by abuse.
“We must be very victim-focused in our pastoral approach. The document definitely addresses that, as well as naming how our parish communities must be healing communities.”
In the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon, a review and update of the existing Covenant of Care safe environment policies and protocol has been underway since early 2018. Pastors and other parish leaders from across the diocese of Saskatoon heard more about the update at a diocesan Administration Day Sept. 12.
Once the new national guidelines are taken into consideration, the updated diocesan Covenant of Care will be finalized and promulgated in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon, said the bishop. “This is an updating of our protocols, taking into account the experience of implementing our safe environment policies, and of giving great care and attention to how we oversee and supervise our people who work with high-risk age groups within our churches.”
Bishop Hagemoen added that the policy is also a way to help clergy and laity continue to do their good work of ministry with support and confidence, “because our ministry needs to continue, in fact it needs to expand. Our ministry needs to grow, especially for those who need it the most, including the most vulnerable.”
In addition to a clear delineation of procedures in cases of sexual abuse, the national document puts for-ward over 60 recommend-ations inspired by nine lessons which bishops have learned through their collect-ive experiences over the past quarter century.
“The document seeks not only to provide guidance for diocesan/eparchial protocols and policies as well as those for religious communities, but to stimulate a cultural transformation in attitudes about sexual abuse,” states a media release from the CCCB.
The new guidelines apply to all Catholic clergy (bishops, priests and deacons), as well as members of religious communities and lay person-nel working in parishes or church organizations.
In developing the policy, the bishops of Canada had input from a broad spectrum of people, including abuse survivors, lay women and men, as well as professional consultants with experience and expertise in psychology, social work, child protection, and Church and civil law, stated the CCCB release, noting that the majority of experts consulted also have specific experience in pro-tecting minors and vulnerable adults from sexual abuse.
“With this document, Canada’s bishops reaffirm their commitment to continue improving practices in their dioceses/eparchies with an emphasis on long-term prevention and pre-emptive action,” said the release.