2.10A Guidance on Managing Child Safeguarding Allegations, Suspicions, Concerns or Knowledge Received During the Extra Sacramental Internal Forum
What is meant by the Internal Forum in this context?
The internal forum describes an individual’s conscience and their personal relationship with God. The internal challenges, sins and struggles a person discloses in confession, as well as the details of one’s personal spiritual life, are considered matters of the internal forum. If someone wishes to confess a sin, the confessional is the appropriate place to receive penance. Other spaces where the internal forum is shared: in spiritual direction, growth counselling or other mechanism, need to have clarity around the limits of confidentiality. This is especially important in relation to disclosures of child abuse.
Guidance 2.10 deals with responding to allegations in relation to the seal of confession, this guidance covers any allegations received outside of confession as part of sharing, aspects of the internal forum with another member of Church personnel. Some examples may include clerics or religious who facilitate spiritual direction or growth counselling to lay people, other Church personnel or those in formation.
Explaining the limits of confidentiality in the extra sacramental forum
The person who facilitates the opportunity for exploring the internal forum must advise prior to the ministry beginning:
- That there are limits of confidentiality, these must be explained to the person who wishes to share issues within the internal forum so that there is absolute clarity that the following cannot be kept confidential:
– Abuse as a child where the perpetrator still has contact with children or adults at risk of harm.
– A person who may have committed abuse or fearful that they have the propensity to harm.
– A person currently experiencing abuse, witnessing it or indirectly involved.
– A person who may view or download indecent images of children or extreme abuse.
The obligation on the person facilitating the ministry is not to investigate but to keep a written record and to report allegations, suspicions, knowledge and concerns to the relevant statutory authorities and/or Church authorities in line with Guidance 2.2.
- The person providing the spiritual direction or growth counselling should sign an agreement with the person receiving the ministry which outlines the limits of confidentiality and the requirement to report. This form should be retained in line with relevant data protection and retention procedures. • If an allegation is made during the ministry, the person responsible for the ministry should explain clearly the steps that they must now take and report the allegation, suspicion, concern or knowledge in line with Guidance 2.2.