Effort to educate Catholic priests on what to do when accused of abuse draws criticism

“I understand the anguish of priests who are wrongly accused and yanked out of a parish without any explanation. But for all of that anguish that they experience, it is minor compared with the pain, the loss and the betrayal experienced by survivors, their families and their parish communities,” said Donna Doucette, executive director of the reform group Voice of the Faithful, which was founded in Boston after the 2002 reporting on abuse and cover-up in that archdiocese.

Brian Fraga, National Catholic Reporter

“A new initiative by a group representing U.S. Catholic priests to inform clerics of their canonical rights when they are accused of misconduct, including sexual abuse, is attracting criticism from survivor advocates, who say it could help cast accused priests in an overly sympathetic light.

“But the clergy behind the effort by the Association of U.S. Catholic Priests, or AUSCP, argue it is necessary. Over the last 20 years, they say, diocesan leaders have failed to respect priests’ rights under canon law — in some cases allowing accused clerics to languish in administrative “limbo” for several years while civil and church authorities investigate allegations made against them.

“‘And in so many cases it’s virtually impossible to prove their innocence, because it’s pretty hard to prove a negative,’ Fr. Mike Sullivan, a parish priest in Minnesota who is a canon lawyer and a member of the association’s Mutual Support Working Group, told NCR.

“That working group, after nearly two years of consulting with bishops, canonists and priests, has crafted a document that delineates clergy members’ rights under the Code of Canon Law when accused of wrongdoing, including sexual abuse.”

By Brian Fraga, National Catholic Reporter — Read more …

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