By Brian Hennessy
Comboni Missionaries Code of Conduct
The Comboni Missionaries “Code of Conduct” deals with a number of issues other than abuse.
It is not an insubstantial document – and the Commission established for its most recent major overhaul in 2005 was headed by Father David Kinnear Glenday and consisted also of Father John Converset who was formerly the Provincial of the North American Province – and two other members of the Order.
Having administered and adjudicated both Military Law and Contractual Law in past lives, I offer them my commiserations as to the proliferation of articles of Canon Law of which they had need to be cognizant and the diverse subjects that they had need to consider.
Clerical Sexual Abuse
That aside, I was only concerned with their administration of the issues surrounding clerical abuse – including emotional and physical abuse, but, most especially, sexual abuse – which, in the Code of Conduct, come under the unwieldy, euphemistic heading of “The Brotherly Care of Persons in Certain Situations”. I have given my attention to three issues only:
• The considerations given to the Victims of alleged abuse.
• The consideration given to the Accused of alleged abuse.
• Administrative procedures required in the consideration of alleged abuse,
I will deal with the first one here and the other two in subsequent articles.
The Undertakings Given in the Code of Conduct to the Victim of Alleged Abuse.
1. The Code states that there is a period of prescription for an offence of sexual abuse in that consideration (for an inquiry) is ten years from the time when the minor who has been abused reaches adulthood.
In practice, victims may have recourse to an ecclesiastical court until they have reached 28 years of age.
2. The Code undertakes to regard all allegations of abuse seriously and to seek the truth of the allegations in a fair manner.
3. The Code gives a guarantee that the Institute will provide the alleged victims the respectful, patient and understanding in a hearing to which they have a right.
4. The Code recognises that the sexual abuse of minors is the commission of a serious offence, and that it may include physical forms of contact, harassment and other inappropriate behaviour, by an adult against a minor who is identified as a person under the age of 18.
5. The Code recognises that a religious cleric is in a position of trust and that a crime of abuse by a cleric is an abuse of power, a serious moral issue and a grave breach of that trust that creates serious and often longlasting consequences for the victim.
6. The Code recognises that the effects of abuse can be very deep and serious and may require continual psychotherapy due to psychological and spiritual trauma that may not be assuaged during the lifetime of the victim.
7. The Code states that the Institute agrees to assume towards the victim an attitude of pastoral concern expressed by way of adequate psychological, spiritual and moral accompaniment.
When suffering is evident in a victim, the Institute commits itself to the provision of a carer (in consultation with parents when necessary).
8. The Code states that the competent carer provided is tasked to offer the victim adequate moral, spiritual and psychological support and who, at the various stages of the process, may also act as an intermediary with the investigating team and the competent authorities.
9. The Code states that if the accused pleads or is found guilty, the victim (and their family in the case of a minor) has the right to adequate reparation for the harm inflicted upon them.
The Institute decides in what manner and to what extent to help the victim financially.
In this regard, the Institute advises that such help be given indirectly through appropriate channels, such as a Church institution or a competent and trusted person such as a lawyer.