Has anything in Roman Catholic Church changed when it comes to child protection?
At first blush I deeply want to be believe: yes. The faithful have endured 28 years of civil litigation, several grand jury reports, billions of dollars in settlements, and several high profile criminal trials. However, when I reviewed the most recent proceedings of the Canon Law Society at their 2011 convention in Jacksonville, Florida, my heart dropped.
Diane L. Barr JD, JCD (who is also the chancellor of the Archdiocese of Baltimore) presented a seminar, “Obligation of the Tribunal to Report Child Abuse“. Barr reviewed mandatory criminal child abuse reporting laws versus canonical responsibilities—that it, what “church law” says she should do. She also discussed obligations to privacy, confidentiality and protecting the Diocese. No mention of victims or child protection.
Let’s get something straight: nowhere in the United States does Canon law trump federal, state, or local criminal or civil law. But apparently, Barr does not know that.
Lessons Learned? Eh … not really.
I mistakenly thought that history, common sense and legal knowledge would inform Barr’s recommendations for a model Tribunal policy for reporting child sexual abuse. I was wrong. Here was what she did present as the “proper procedure for abuse reporting”:
- Step One: Notary brings information to the Judicial Vicar immediately.
- Step Two: Judicial Vicar reviews information and contacts Youth and Child Protection representative (or diocesan attorney) to discuss further action.
- Step Three: Judicial Vicar calls person mentioning allegation and indicates that the person will be contacted by the Youth and Child protection representative (or diocesan attorney) to follow up and determine where to go with the allegation.
- Step Four: Youth and Child Protection representative (or diocesan attorney) investigates and determines if reporting must be done.
After all these years, I offer a simple suggestion. Because the protection of children is a core belief of our society and the history of child protection in the Catholic Church is so pathetic, let’s be straight forward:
Call 911. Right now.