Showing posts with label clergy discipline. Show all posts
Showing posts with label clergy discipline. Show all posts

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Catholic Efforts to Address Abuse Ignore Lessons from Title IV



One of the sad things about the myriad denominations within Christianity is that they too often fail to learn from one another. And so it is with the recent papal efforts to address abuse. These, while well intentioned, will prove problematic in exactly the same way as The Episcopal Church’s clergy disciplinary canon, Title IV, is inherently flawed.

For starters, much like the recent changes to Title IV, which purport to protect whistleblowers, the papal decree requires people to blow the whistle on abuse and coverup. But just as dioceses—including the Diocese of Virginia—are already ignoring the whistleblower protection provisions of Title IV with impunity, the lack of an enforcement mechanism within the papal provisions makes it highly likely that Catholic dioceses will ignore these requirements. In other words, only the truly foolhardy or those with incredible fortitude will risk the reprisals they will face if they come forward with allegations.

Similarly, the requirement in the new Catholic legislation that survivors be treated with respect will quickly fall prey to the advice of attorneys, who will urge diocesan officials not to get too involved. This is common in The Episcopal Church, where dioceses routinely ignore the Title IV requirement of a pastoral response in every case in which a complaint is made to the intake officer, even when a parish is traumatized by the removal of a rector in a Title IV proceeding. This mirrors the finding of the Church of England’s recent report on clergy abuse and Bishop Bell, which found that the needs of survivors were routinely ignored in the quest to protect the church’s reputation.

Most importantly, the new Catholic regulations permit bishops to ignore complaints if they are found to be “manifestly unfounded.” This mirrors the materiality provisions of Title IV, which apply a two-pronged test to complaints; they must be both a violation of Title IV and “of weighty and material importance to the ministry of the church.” Given that Episcopal dioceses that wish to avoid dealing with a complaint routinely invoke this clause, even in cases that involve retaliation by clergy and allegations of criminal conduct, one may be confident that Catholic bishops will find myriad behaviors that most of us would consider patently antithetical to Christian values to involve allegations that are “manifestly unfounded.”

In short, while the attention to these issues is to be commended, we remain far from resolution, regardless of the denomination.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Good Article On Clergy Discipline

In The Episcopal Church, the clergy disciplinary canons are referred to as Title IV. Applying only to clergy and not laity, these provisions may not be reviewed in civil courts.

Some years ago, the church transitioned to a clergy disciplinary model that is restorative in nature, versus based on retribution or punishment. Specifically, the process focuses on healing and repair, both for the clergyperson and for those affected by his or her betrayal of trust.

Unfortunately, the Diocese of Virginia has shown that it is neither familiar with Title IV, nor committed to its goals. As a result, we see lasting harm to all parties involved, much of which will be difficult, if not impossible, to repair.

In the article, I find the discussion about clergy placing their own needs ahead of those they serve. While I want to be clear that there is no suggestion that Bob Malm has engaged in sexual impropriety (as was alleged with the rector who is the subject of the article), Bob’s continued focus on his own perceived needs, and his desire to “discipline” those he apparently sees as wayward former parishioners, betrays the trust of his parish, his family, and others.