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Religious Congregations support amended abuse protocol

Leaders of Australia's more than 100 religious congregations have reaffirmed their commitment to Towards Healing, while voting unanimously in favour of significant amendments to parts of the protocol.

The leaders considered the Church's protocol for dealing with complaints of sexual abuse during last week's annual national conference of the Australian Conference of Leaders of Religious Institutes (ACLRI).

ACLRI President Sr Bernadette Keating PBVM (pictured) said the issue of how to handle cases of sexual abuse remains a "major challenge" for religious leaders everywhere. But she stressed that most of the more than 1000 cases handled using the Protocol since 1996 were "successfully resolved".

"As its name implies, the process has become the catalyst for a whole new healing ministry," Sr Bernadette said.

The amendments address a range of administrative issues, including:
• approval to review membership of the national committee;
• to review the positions of co-chairperson;
• the possibility of establishing extra layers of recourse for victims, such as an ombudsman; and,
• the formation of an additional consultative panel for each diocesan bishop and religious leader to advise and assist them through the process.

Motions were also carried relating to allegations being brought against bishops or religious leaders. The motions "…there should be no difference in the process adopted for a bishop/leader and the process adopted for a priest/religious" and "in the event a complaint is made against a bishop or religious leader the 'director of professional standards' for the case shall be the co-chairpersons of the national committee for professional standards acting together".

Australian Conference of Leaders of Religious Institutes

Church committed to tackling abuse (Southern Cross)
Jesuits nearer to adopting sex abuse rules (Sydney Morning Herald)
ACLRI Leaders meet in Melbourne: "We mustn't lose hope" (25/6/03)
Bishops fine-tuning sex abuse response procedures (29/5/03)
Australian Conference of Leaders of Religious Institutes
Towards Healing - Principles and procedures in responding to complaints of abuse against personnel of the Catholic Church of Australia

2 Jul 2003