11/10/2012 08:21

First Protocol for Right Relationships in Ministry released

By Paul Harricknen/CBC Director of Right Relationships in Ministry.

Atty. Paul Harricknen, you are the Director of Right Relationships in Ministry for the Catholic Bishops Conference of Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands, which is supposed to develop policies and protocols to address the issue of possible sexual offences by clerics. What is the situation at the moment?

The universal Church has been plagued in recent years with the issue of sexual abuse of minors by clergy. Pope Benedict XVI has been very concerned. The Holy See, therefore, has required all Episcopal Conferences to develop guidelines on the issue. The Board of the Right Relationships in Ministry of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands (CBC) has recently released the first revised Protocol dealing with sexual abuse of minors by clerics. The protocol was approved by the Major Superiors of the Clerical Religious Orders in March 2012 and by the CBC Annual General Meeting on 20 April 2012.Now it has been sent to the Congregation of the Doctrine of Faith in Rome for final endorsement. Another two separate protocols dealing with possible sexual abuse and sexual misconduct with adults by clergy, religious and lay Church workers are still being worked out by the Board.  

How do you distinguish between a minor and an adult in legal terms?

Persons under the age of 18 are defined as minors or children under civil law. So it is under our protocol. The sexual abuse of a minor is not only intrinsically evil, but also criminal in nature for both the Church and the State.

What is the purpose of the Protocols?

The Protocols are developed to help Religious Superiors and diocesan Bishops to respond to any incident of sexual abuse or sexual misconduct in the Church in Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands. The four fundamental principles underlying the first Protocol on the abuse of minors are: protection of children through prevention; right relationships in ministry through formation strategies; commitment to transparency; co-operation with society and civil authorities. Sexual abuse is a multi-faceted reality.  It involves personal and relational aspects, cultural aspects, ecclesiastical aspects, legal aspects, pastoral and spiritual aspects.  All of these dimensions of the problem need to be looked at in forming an adequate response to issues of sexual abuse.  In particular, a pastoral response to issues of sexual abuse will place emphasis on pastoral care of the victims and their families, the community, and even the offender, the offender’s family, and the non- offending clergy. The tragedy of sexual abuse of minors perpetrated by Christians and especially by members of the clergy is a source of great shame and enormous scandal.  When incidents of sexual abuse arise, the Church must be able to respond in a way that shows the compassion, reconciliation, forgiveness and justice of Jesus himself, towards the victim, the affected communities, and the offender.

What about formation programs?

Formation programs for religious and clergy need to help candidates to understand and accept their own human and psychosexual status and development.  It is essential that seminarians, clergy and religious understand the emotional, relational, physical, psychological and ethical aspects of their sexuality so that they can accept the gift of celibacy, live it joyfully and avoid doing what is wrong and hurtful to themselves and to others. (G.L.)

(CBC Communications 20121010 – giorgiolicini@yahoo.com)