When an allegation is made against a cleric or religious, there may be an impact on their family members. In some situations the family may not be aware of the allegation, if the respondent finds it difficult to share that an allegation has been made. The Bishop will discuss with the respondent what information can be shared and by whom. If there are children belonging to family members, contact with the children should be discussed as part of any management plan. Once family members become aware of the allegation, they may face a range of conflicting emotions. Whatever their views, they should be offered pastoral support to assist in dealing with the challenges during any criminal inquiry, church inquiry and any assessment by Tusla of risk presented to children within the family. The feelings experienced by family members may include fear, denial, shame, anger, isolation, stigmatisation, and concern for the respondent. It is important that an offer of pastoral care is offered by the Bishop, along with an assessment of their needs which will include:
• To have their concerns and anxieties heard and acknowledged;
• To know that their family member will be treated in a fair and just manner;
• To know how the civil and Church processes involved will proceed;
• To be kept informed on a regular basis;
• To have practical advice and support;
• To have advice on how to respond to the media, should the situation arise;
• To have spiritual guidance and support.
• An agreement should be reached between the Bishop and the respondent about what information is shared with relevant family members
• A written offer of pastoral support should be made to relevant family members with the agreement of the respondent. This support may include visits from a support person, a meeting with the Bishop
• Advice should be given on how to respond to any media queries
• Practical support should be offered if there are court proceedings where the family may wish to attend.