Comboni Missionaries Undertakings given to Alleged Abusers

By Brian Hennessy

THis is the 2nd of 3 articles on the Comboni Missionaries’ Code of Conduct as regards allegations of sexual abuse by clerics.

The Undertakings Given in the Code of Conduct to the Accused of Alleged Abuse.

1. The Code states that the Institute guarantees an accused confrere a fraternal, respectful and understanding hearing.

It provides him with adequate moral, spiritual and psychological support through a competent person who, at the various stages of the process, can also act as an intermediary between him, the confrere in charge of the inquiry, and/or the investigating team and the superiors.

2. The Code states that once the inquiry has been formally opened, the confrere under investigation – except when there is well founded reason to fear grave scandal or risk for the victim and/or witnesses – must always be immediately informed, so that he may defend himself or, if he pleads guilty, begin immediately upon the process of reparation of the harm done and the journey of personal healing.

3. The Code states that during the inquiry, the Institute may offer the person under investigation spiritual and, if requested, also psychological support.

If there is proof of a fumusveri facti, among the precautionary measures available is the possibility of the provincial superior’s obliging the person under investigation to stay in a specific community (cf. CIC 1722).

4. The Code states that while the truth of the facts is being checked, to allow the inquiry to proceed calmly and offer protection to the accused and the other persons involved, the provincial superior may make the following provisions regarding the accused:

• his temporary transfer to another mission or some such appropriate place;
• his prohibition from any contact with the alleged victim to prevent this person from being placed under duress in any way;

5. The Code states that first expression of the Institute’s care for the accused is to give him a fair hearing. Basically, what inspires the Institute here is the search for truth and justice.

Aware that attention to the person is part of the Institute’s style of life, the Institute focuses its action on the good of the person involved, including during the inquiry intended to discover the truth and re-establish justice.

6. The Code states that while well aware that sexual abuse against minors, committed by priests and religious, besides being a grave injustice against the victims, undermines the faith of the people and the credibility of the Church, the Institute does not neglect its clear duties and rights vis-à-vis its own members accused of improper behaviour.

These duties and rights include the requirement of giving them proper attention at the moral, psychological, spiritual and legal levels.

7. The Code states that when the accused is proved innocent, the Institute has the right to request full retraction and reparation from the person or persons who has committed calumny against him.

The competent superior will decide what procedure is to be followed, including if necessary referring the matter to the civil authorities, always though having the good of the persons involved as his first concern.

8. The Code states that when the innocence of the accused has been proven, the Institute will do everything in its power to re-establish the good name of the person who has been falsely accused and, as part of a pastoral approach intended to help the Christian community to grow, it will determine all the acts necessary to effect this reparation.

9. The Code states that when the accused has been found innocent, the Institute will determine:

(a) the ways in which the person or persons who have falsely accused him must repair the harm done (cf. for example CIC 1390, 220, 128);

(b) the reestablishment of the full honour of the person calumnied;

(c) the ways in which to walk with the community in its journey of mercy towards those who have made the false accusations and to manifest full ecclesial communion towards the wronged confrere.

10. The Code states that when the accused has been found guilty of having committed some abuse, he will be urged to accept his responsibility and face up to the consequences of his actions, but will also inviting, in a fraternal manner, to correct his ways.

11. The Code states that once the guilt of the person under investigation has been proven and the judicial sentence passed, the Institute is required to carry out the sentence imposed by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

In doing this, the Institute authoritatively proposes to the religious, as one of the necessary means to resolve the situation, a process of serious spiritual and therapeutic accompaniment.

The religious is invited to accept this proposal in a spirit of obedience.

Should he not do so, the competent superior will provide for assigning the guilty confrere to a community where he is protected and prevented from repeating the same illicit acts.

Any recidivism calls for the application of the directives of CIC 1395.

12. The Code states that any decision to transfer the guilty confrere to a new place and post, and/or to refer him for suitable therapy, is determined on the basis of the various elements and circumstances of the case, such as:

(a) the type and gravity of the abuse in question;

(b) the psychological assessment of the person, with indications about his capacity to respond to therapy, and any prognosis of recidivism;

(c) the danger of his having access to other future victims;

(d) the availability of appropriate measures to safeguard the persons concerned.

13. The Code states that when the investigation has proven the confrere to be guilty, the directives of CIC 1311-1399 are to be followed in choosing and applying the penalties.
14. The Code states that the dismissal of a guilty confrere from the Institute and clerical state will only be done as the last resort and in full observance of the relevant dispositions of the CIC (for dismissal from the Institute, 694-704; for dismissal from the clerical state, 290).

Bearing in mind that CIC 1317 determines that “dismissal from the clerical state cannot be established by particular law”, the norms contained in the present code of conduct refer strictly to the dispositions contained in CIC 1364, 1367, 1370, 1394, 1395.

15. The Code states that when provision must be made for dismissal from the Institute of a confrere in perpetual vows (see also nos. 82 §2, 87, 112 and 132 of this document), the Institute is open to considering the possibility of helping him, including financially.

The norms that follow may be used analogously with regard to confreres who have freely chosen to leave the Institute.

16. The Code states that while bearing carefully in mind that the choice of life as a Comboni Missionary is the response to a vocation, and cannot thus in any way be compared to any form of employer-employee relationship (CIC 702; RV 161), the province in which the confrere is incardinated may consider the possibility of helping him as he enters upon his new state of life.

Every province, therefore, in its own directory, lays down in practical terms the ways in which it intends to offer such help, taking account of the average standard of living of people in the country in question.

Following the relevant dispositions of the directory, the provincial council decides what is to be done in each individual case.

17. The Code states that only the province where the confrere plans to settle – chosen by him between his province of origin and the one where he has been carrying out his missionary service – is competent to manage the matter of his dismissal; it is thus strictly forbidden that a confrere who has been dismissed or who has chosen to leave should receive help from other provinces.

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