1.26 Guidance on Situations Where Known Respondents Wish to Worship

Every person has the right to practice their faith, including being able to attend mass; and this right includes people who have harmed children. Given the range of emotions and reactions their offending behaviour may cause, they may feel anxiety in seeking to continue to practice their faith. Also Church personnel may be anxious about enabling worship and having the correct balance between the right to practice faith and the safeguarding of the children who also have a right to practice their faith.

This guidance sets out the process that should be followed to safeguard children and to safeguard the respondents when they are seeking to practice their faith including attending Church. For church respondents who have a permanent or interim management plan in place, inclusion of the management and practical approaches to enabling attendance at Church and at sacraments should be included in that plan. It can also be used for lay people who are made known to Church authorities through organisations such as Probation or Police, and where attendance at Church is part of their covenant of care.

1. Identification of Risk

This process can only apply to situations where there is knowledge that someone has been convicted of child abuse or where there is a finding of fact – through a canonical or disciplinary process, that the respondent has harmed a child. This should never be used in situations of gossip or rumour.

Where someone has been found guilty through a criminal process, an Agreement should be reached between the respondent, relevant statutory authorities and the local Church authority (priest) around the following:

  • Acceptance that the respondent has a right to worship, acknowledging the importance of faith, and see this as part of the safety plan and self-identity.
  • Acceptance on the part of respondents that they may present a risk or at the least an acceptance of the relevant statutory body’s assessment that they pose a risk to children.
  • Acceptance on the part of the respondents to have an agreement about how they choose to practice their faith including which Church services they may attend.
  • The respondent may be fearful of reprisals and their own safety so this should be addressed.

2. Identification of strengths

A discussion should be had with the parties involved (person/respondent, the local Church authority, statutory personnel, the Church authority of the Church body) to establish what strengths are present for the respondent which should be included in The Agreement. These might include:

  • Openness and transparency about all alleged / convicted offences
  • Evidence of remorse for the harm caused
  • Insight into risk triggers including thoughts, behaviours, situations and actions
  • An active support network which is non collusive
  • An acceptance that they must not have any unsupervised contact with children3. Agreement/Covenant/Management PlanFrom the information in steps 1 and 2 above a written Agreement should be put in place which identifies that attendance at Church and at Sacraments has the dual purpose of safeguarding children and safeguarding the respondent and should include the following:
  • Church accountabilities (mass, Sacraments, funerals etc) (exclude outside activities)
  • Listing activities or services that the respondent seeks to attend
  • Outlining which service/mass is appropriate to attend – excluding any children’s masses
  • Agreeing an appropriate place to sit during the services
  • Identification of a friend, support person or advisor, who has full knowledge of the risk posed, to accompany and sit with the respondent
  • Outlining how to raise concerns
  • Compliance and Review of arrangements
  • Sharing information and confidentiality – what information should be shared with whom and what consent is sought, this includes consent from the data subject to share information with relevant named Church personnel and for the local Church autority to retain a copy of the agreement.