To the faithful of the Diocese of Charlottetown
September 8, 2019
In my Pastoral Letter of November 1, 2018, I announced a new document of the Canadian Bishops “Protecting Minors from Sexual Abuse: A call to the Faithful in Canada for Healing, Reconciliation and Transformation“. That document emphasized nine lessons learned in the last twenty years and each lesson emphasized transparency and accountability. The purpose of that document is to invite all Dioceses to implement the lessons learned. Now, I wish to share with you what our Diocese has been doing to update its policies and practice in the light of the lessons outlined in that document.
Three copies were distributed to each parish so that the Pastor might provide copies to his Parish/Finance Council. (Additional copies are available at the Catholic Centre 350 North River Road). For study purposes, Sister Nuala Kenny, one of the consultants for the document, conducted a workshop for the priests at Our Lady of Hope Retreat Centre. At least one parish took up the challenge and composed study groups in the parish resulting in a report which their Pastor presented to me. They shared the results with both the Diocese and the Parish. Better communications among the parishes about these matters was a key theme. I hope to visit that parish soon to convey my gratitude to them and their Pastor for their diligence and their faithful stewardship of God’s most precious gifts in the parish.
To respond to allegations of abuse or misconduct, there is a Diocesan Committee, formed in 1997, that also discussed the document of the Canadian Conference of Bishops with a view to improving its own mission. And so, the Diocesan Misconduct Advisory Team has heard from the public and made three important changes. First, in the light of the document Protecting Minors from Sexual Assault (Ottawa, 2018) they have reviewed and edited the Charlottetown Diocesan Policy of February 11, 2011 regarding response to allegations of sexual misconduct. Second, the Diocesan Misconduct Advisory Team has altered the language of the Introduction of the Diocesan Policy because it was perceived to be cold and legalistic. The new Introduction has an inviting and friendly style. Third, the Diocesan Misconduct Advisory Team has initiated a direct phone line to the Diocesan Office to make it easier for anyone who may have a concern or complaint. This phone number, new introduction and the update version dated June 2019 is published on the Diocesan website. All allegations involving minors shall be immediately referred to the police.
Another initiative, Strengthening the Caring Community was established almost ten years ago and has undergone several updates. Although some refer to it as a screening program, it is actually aimed at promoting and protecting a safe environment for everyone in the Parish, particularly the most vulnerable. For example, parish volunteers, employees, priest and parish Lay Associates who deal with the most vulnerable or who deal with finances or who have keys to premises must secure a police check every six years. In addition, all volunteers must be registered with the Parish Office. Such parish documentation writes Pope Francis in his Apostolic Letter “On the Protection of Minors and Vulnerable Persons” must be audited regularly to ensure continuing compliance. To that end I was advised to seek an outside agency to audit our screening practices and the parish documentation. Since Insurance Companies provide coverage for both property damage and liability, it was deemed appropriate to invite parish insurers to audit screening records and practice of each parish they visit. Your Parish Property and Finance Committee should be alert to this important change as non-compliance with our Diocesan Policy on Screening may jeopardize insurance coverage. The Program and Policy of Strengthening the Caring Community is published and can be viewed on the Diocesan Website. The Diocesan Committee for this Program has also made several recommendations such as keeping parishioners informed about policy and protocol on these matters and inviting them to contribute their input and assistance to make our parishes and our Diocese a safer environment for everyone.
Finally, no visiting priest may exercise his ministry on PEI without providing a testimonial letter from his Bishop. His Bishop must assure his priest’s suitability including confirmation of his police check. This testimonial letter for visiting priests must be provided prior to his arrival.
I will continue to update you on all our efforts because the healing, reconciliation and transformation required is a call to all the faithful of the Diocese of Charlottetown.
Sincerely in Christ Jesus,
Most Reverend Richard Grecco
Diocese of Charlottetown