The Archdiocese of Edmonton will publish next month revised policies and protocols on abuse prevention and reporting.
The plan follows a pledge made by Archbishop Richard Smith in 2018, after the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops released its new guidelines on Protecting Minors from Sexual Abuse.
Addressing abuse victims at that time, the Archbishop said: “What you experienced should never have happened, and we are profoundly sorry. We know that such abuse leaves a long and lasting scar, not only on you, the individual victim, but also on your family. As we continue to move forward on this issue, it is your interest that must, and will, come first in everything we do.”
The Archdiocese of Edmonton has also conducted a review of sexual abuse files over several weeks in the summer and fall of 2019. The review covered the period from 1947 to 2018. That start date was chosen because the first documented complaint of abuse was made in 1958, against a priest whose personnel record dated to 1947. An estimated 1,300 priests served in the Archdiocese over the years covered by the review.
The Archbishop ordered the review in order to be able to assure the Archdiocese that no priest who has ever had a credible allegation of abuse lodged against him is serving in ministry.
“Our file review does enable us to assure our people that no priest who has been credibly accused of sexual abuse of a child is serving in active ministry in the Archdiocese of Edmonton,” the Archdiocese said in a statement on its website.
The Archdiocese also asked a third party — the abuse prevention accrediting agency Praesidium Inc. — to audit the review for accuracy and provide an analysis of some of the worst cases.
The question of publishing names of abusers is still being determined, both in light of privacy laws and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, as well as in respect for the sensitivity of victims and their families.
The Archdiocese says several victims and families who it consulted advised against publishing the names of priests who have been accused, but not convicted, of a crime.
“Without exception, they have advised us that publication of names of these offenders and details of the offences would serve only to re-traumatize them,” the Archdiocese said in a statement. “Many had decided not to report their complaints to police and/or explicitly requested that there be no publicity of their complaints.”
The Archdiocese is committed to abuse prevention.
“We have conducted a comprehensive review of our abuse prevention policies and protocols with an eye to clarifying them and assuring our people that abuse will not be tolerated,” the Archdiocese said.
Local practices and protocols are being reviewed in light of the updated CCCB guidelines, which include 69 recommendations. Since that time, each diocese in Canada is working to implement those recommendations locally.
“The bishops of Canada continue to work diligently to effect real and substantive change for the prevention of abuse, the protection of minors and vulnerable adults, and the healing of victims-survivors,” the CCCB said in a Nov. 15 update.
“They all recognize how important it is for dioceses/eparchies across our country to seek in their own contexts the most responsible approaches possible which are fully consistent with the law.”