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Canadian bishops move vigorously on sex abuse problems.

WASHINGTON -- A year after a Canadian bishops' special committee issued a report on child sexual abuse, more than half of the Canadian dioceses have implemented at least some of its recommendations, said a bishops' conference official.

About 50 of 73 dioceses responded to an informal survey by the staff of the Canadian bishops' conference this spring, said Dennis Gruending, director of information for the conference. Of those, about 75 percent had appointed a special bishop's delegate on sexual abuse, as recommended by the committee in June 1992, he said in a June 22 telephone interview.

About 80 percent had formed an advisory committee on sexual abuse, Gruending said, noting that some smaller, more rural dioceses had set up interdiocesan committees. More than half of the dioceses had developed a "protocol" for action to be taken in cases of child abuse.

The Canadian bishops' Ad Hoc Committee on Child Sexual Abuse took a little more than two years to study the problem and issue its recommendations. Although the U.S. bishops' ad hoc committee, announced in New Orleans in mid-June, has the task of dealing with broader issues of sexual abuse throughout American society, the Canadians had specific instructions not to study the nature and causes of sexual abuse.

The Canadian committee was "to draw up additional policies and guidelines to help each diocese, especially regarding long-range prevention, follow-up support for victims and their families, and the treatment of abusers and their future," said Bishop Robert Lebel of Valleyfield, Quebec, who was president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops in 1989.

Most members of the Canadian committee were not named until early 1990. Bishop Roger Ebacher of Gatineau-Hull, Quebec, was chairman. Bishop Ebacher was a member of the Permanent Council, as were the other two bishops on the committee. Also on the committee were two lay social workers, a nun-physician who specialized in pediatrics, and a priest with "extensive experience" in counseling priests.

From April 1990 to April 1992, the committee met 12 times. In addition, four working groups and a special team responsible for drafting group discussion material met frequently.

The results were two booklets. The first, "Breach of Trust, Breach of Faith," was published in March 1992. It offered material for five sessions designed to stimulate discussion about abuse and included guidelines and outlines for group leaders. Gruending said the conference had only "anecdotal information about the use of these materials," but noted that as of June, 6,000 copies had been sold.

The second report, "From Pain to Hope," called for a break in the "wall of silence" that had allowed sexual abuse to persist for years within the church. The report, issued in June 1992, said that contributing to the problem was the fact that the church "too readily shelters its ministers from having to account for their conduct."

The Canadian ad hoc committee was formed after an increasing number of cases of sexual abuse of children by clergy were reported across Canada. The committee in its June 1992 report made 50 recommendations for dealing with problems of abuse.

Among the recommendations, it urged Canadian Catholics to support people struggling to reveal abuse that occurred years ago, to become informed about the laws on reporting child sexual abuse, and to support the thousands of Canadian priests who "are unjustly smeared by the misconduct of a small minority of their colleagues."

Among the recommendations for Canadian bishops:

* Appoint a priest, called a bishop's delegate, to deal with allegations of sexual abuse in each diocese;

* Establish an advisory committee of at least five people to whom the bishop's delegate can refer issues and allegations;

* Form a committee to support victims;

* Provide pastoral care for members of parishes whose priest is accused or convicted of child sexual abuse;

* Decide about the possible return to active ministry of convicted priests who ask to resume ministry.

The committee also recommended that those responsible for priestly formation implement a more careful selection process for candidates.
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Title Annotation:Catholic dioceses
Author:Fraze, Barb
Publication:National Catholic Reporter
Article Type:Cover Story
Date:Jul 2, 1993
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