2.42 Guidance on Managing Child Protection Allegations, Suspicions, Concerns, Knowledge, Acts or Omissions of Church Authorities or those who hold or have held leadership within Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life (both Men and Women)

What is covered by this guidance? This guidance relates to the reporting and management of allegations against those in a position of authority – i.e. Major Superiors (Provincial) (men and women) or the one representing him or her (e.g.) Regional Leader  if the Provincial’s base is outside of Ireland.  This guidance also covers supreme moderators of institutes or societies of diocesan right and their equivalents.

 Types of Allegations

The possible allegations that can be made against a Church authority as defined above include:

  • Abuse of children and vulnerable adults.
  • Production, exhibition, possession or distribution of child pornography.
  • Sexual activity with another by force, by violence or threat or through abuse of authority.
  • Acts or omissions intended to interfere with or avoid civil or canonical investigations against a cleric or religious.

The role of the Designated Liaison Person (DLP) is to listen to all child safeguarding concerns and to pass on to the statutory authorities those that reach the threshold of reporting,

 For other religious Church authorities this guidance should be followed.

Step 1: Reporting If the allegation is against a Major Superior (Provincial) or the one representing him or her (e.g. Regional Leader), and the threshold for reporting has been reached, the DLP of the respondent’s Church body should inform the following:

  • The statutory authorities;
  • The National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church in Ireland (NBSCCCI) (without identifying information).
  • The Supreme Moderator of the relevant Institute of Consecrated Life or Society of Apostolic Life. • Person representing the Major Superior.

Step 2: Responding

 Any allegation relating to a Major Superior must be forwarded to the Supreme Moderator. Following receipt of an allegation, if it meets the threshold for reporting, the Supreme Moderator must ensure that the statutory authorities are informed and that their consent is sought prior to taking any canonical action or informing the respondent that an allegation has been made (so as not to interfere with any criminal or civil law investigations).

Depending on the nature of the allegation, the Supreme Moderator will have to consider

  • What restrictions if any are placed on the Provincial’s ministry?
  • Who to share information with.
  • The appropriate person to conduct any inquiries.
  • How to respond to the complainant. The Supreme Moderator may consult the Pontifical Representative and the relevant Dicastery for direction, or seek the advice of the National Case Management Committee (NCMC).

Action following the conclusion of any statutory inquiry investigation

The Church process, which will have been paused to allow the statutory inquiries to proceed, must be restarted and the respondent informed of the process to be followed. If it is clear that the concern is manifestly false, the respondent should be informed and confirmed as being in good standing; if a Dicastery has been consulted they should be informed that there will be no further action. Otherwise the next part of the canonical investigation must take place. 

  1. a) Procedure for responding canonically to allegations against a clerical Church authority Follow the canon law process as outlined in Standard 4 (preliminary investigation). The Supreme Moderator should appoint an appropriate person to conduct inquiries and produce a report The Supreme Moderator should send their votum, based on that report to the relevant dicastery for direction on the next stage of the process.
  2. b) For non-ordained religious Church authority The Supreme Moderator should appoint an appropriate person to conduct inquiries and produce a report. The Supreme Moderator, in consultation with his General council which should be composed of at least four members (not including the Supreme Moderator) will consider the report, in line with the constitution of the Order. Together, all must seriously and attentively study the material with a view to verifying the existence of the offence, the imputability of the respondent, the impact on the one abused (justice), and the impact on the wider community of the faithful (scandal). After weighing up all these dimensions, the council must vote collegially.

For dismissal process follow Canons 694-704. The Supreme Moderator and general council may vote to dismiss the member as they believe, based on the evidence, that the allegation is proven. An absolute majority of those voting is required and sufficient. The Supreme Moderator, along with the general council, may decide that the allegation is not credible and therefore the respondent should be returned to ministry as a member in good standing.

Or, The Supreme Moderator and the general council may decide that the allegation is credible but due to circumstances they may allow the respondent remain part of the congregation.

  1. If the respondent is dismissed and the Church retains no responsibility for them, the decree of dismissal must then be drawn up in accordance with Canon 700 and communicated at once to the CICLSAL. If there are doubts or anxieties at any stage of the procedure, the congregation may be consulted, but, unlike the case for clerics, there is no authorisation needed to initiate this process.
  2. If the respondent remains a part of the congregation, a permanent management plan is created, including the provision of monitoring (Guidance 4.4A).