Many communities have been wounded by the scandal and sin of sexual abuse inflicted by people in positions of trust and authority, and perpetrated against children and vulnerable individuals. This is abhorrent to all people of good will. Its devastating effects can be felt by the whole community and its prevention rests with the whole community working together.
With this document, the Diocese of St. Catharines has updated its policy to deal more effectively and openly with allegations of sexual misconduct and/or abuse of minors by clergy, staff and volunteers of the Diocese. This Diocesan Policy has two guiding principles. First, to ensure that allegations of misconduct are dealt with in a spirit of compassion, so that those who come forward with allegations are treated with respect and sensitivity. Second, to ensure that the Church fulfills its responsibility to see that justice is done and to discover the truth, giving priority to the protection of children and vulnerable individuals, while maintaining the principle that a person is innocent until proven guilty.
We urge all Catholics to respect and support those victims of sexual abuse who, despite the difficulty, struggled to allow a painful truth to be heard. We also urge all Catholics to support, sustain and encourage our clergy who, in living out their vocations with integrity, have been unjustly tarnished by the misconduct of a small number of fellow clerics. In recent years we have undertaken a more rigorous approach by developing a more thorough screening protocol for clergy, employees and volunteers.
It is our intention that this Diocesan Policy will help to promote healthy and safe environments for the pastoral activities of our Christian community, where all persons can feel confident to live their faith. While this policy cannot guarantee that future problems in this area will not occur, it does serve to assure everyone that the Church takes seriously the conduct of its clergy, employees and volunteers, and it follows a clear procedure in dealing with any allegations of misconduct.