Concern at treatment of priests after sex abuse allegations
Association of Catholic Priests speaks out on issues around presumption of innocence
Fr Gerry O’Connor noted the protection measures taken in the church and said ‘sometimes noble aspirations can have unintended consequences’. Photograph: Reuters
Concern at the treatment of priests who find themselves the subject of allegations of sex abuse has been expressed by members of the Association of Catholic Priests
Issues such as presumption of innocence, support for priests facing allegations and the time it takes for allegations to be dealt with were all of concern to the clergy, canon lawyer Helen Costigane who lectures in Heythrop College, London, told the association’s annual conference.
When priests face allegations of sexual abuse they are “put in a limbo situation and the bishops are almost hoping they will move on or die,” one priest said.
Ms Costigane was highly critical of “the idea that priests who are accused are cut adrift and left to fend for themselves”.
She cited cases where priests have had to fund their own legal representation or were forced to rely on the charity of friends.
“The implementation of child protection norms has caused a very deep resentment within the clergy, an emotional break between the bishops and their priests,” she said.
“At the moment, as I have seen it, people are just tossed out of their homes, removed from their ministry and they don’t actually know what is happening,” she said.
One priest said “one of the injustices against priests has been the adverse publicity, or the outing of priests in the media” .
Fr Gerry O’Connor noted the protection measures taken in the church and said “sometimes noble aspirations can have unintended consequences”.
Members passed a motion stating that “in the interests of harmonising the administration of justice, and with the intention of sharing best practice, we recommend the bishops construct a single set of policies and guidelines enabling clergy to return to ministry”.