Bishops Give Approval in Principle to New Resource for Protection of Minors, and Encourage Formation of a Catholic Circle for Relations with Indigenous People

Friday, September 30 2016

Plenary 2016 - 19(CCCB – Ottawa)… On the fourth day of their Plenary Assembly, following several years of work by an Ad hoc Committee, the Bishops adopted in principle a new CCCB resource for the protection of minors. This updates and replaces their historic 1992 document, From Pain to Hope. The Bishops also encouraged a proposal to form a “circle” of Canadian Catholic organizations and agencies which would focus on strengthening relations with Indigenous Peoples.

In other work during the day, the Bishops discussed how the Church in southern Canada can assist the dioceses in the North following the transfer earlier this year of the remaining six mission dioceses in the North to the common jurisdiction of the Church. The day began with the celebration of Morning Prayer and Eucharist presided by the Most Reverend Mark A. Hagemoen, Bishop of Mackenzie-Fort Smith.

Moving Towards Healing and Renewal – The Canadian Experience
The Bishops gave approval in principle to a new resource which provides guidelines, recommendations and commitments which will assist dioceses, eparchies and institutes of consecrated life in the protection of minors and the prevention of sexual abuse, Tentatively entitled Moving Towards Healing and Renewal – The Canadian Experience, the document once completed will provide a complete resource that will be of interest to all Catholics, and includes recommendations regarding all pastoral workers as well as Church volunteers. It recommends a mechanism of accountability to assist in the protection of minors, the safeguarding of pastoral environments, and the prevention of sexual abuse, and also reflects on the healing of those who have been hurt, including both individual victims and communities.

The new document is expected to be published in the first half of 2017. The Ad hoc Committee which worked on the new resource includes Bishops, two psychologists and a paediatrician (the paediatrician and one of the psychologists are women with extensive experience in working with situations of abuse), and also two canonists. The Committee involves representatives from consecrated life and also from the Eastern Churches. The five Bishops on it have extensive experience in working with the range of problems involved with sexual abuse.

Relations with the Indigenous Peoples
In March 2016, four Canadian Catholic organizations made a common response to Call to Action 48 by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and in response to questions raised on the legal concepts known as “Doctrine of Discovery” and terra nullius. Representing Bishops, institutes of consecrated life, clergy, Indigenous People and laity, the four organizations are the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB), the Canadian Religious Conference (CRC), the Canadian Catholic Aboriginal Council, and the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace.

The process of reflections led to a project to involve the same organizations as well as several other national Catholic associations in an ongoing initiative that would provide a shared reflection on Indigenous questions, a Catholic voice on mutual concerns, and a means for developing possible projects in common. While encouraging Catholic follow-up to the TRC Calls to Action and more specifically the eight commitments to date by the four Catholic parties, the proposed circle would especially look strengthening Catholic relations with and among Indigenous People. The Plenary Assembly welcomed the proposal and encouraged continuing efforts to develop this project.

Canadian Appeal Tribunal and Catholic Organization for Life and Family
On August 8, 2015, Pope Francis promulgated the motu proprio Mitis iudex Dominus Jesus, with respect to the Code of Canon Law of the Latin Church, and Mitis et misericors Jesus, with respect to the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches. The new legislation involved important changes to the procedures for declaring a marriage null. Two of the changes had a direct impact on the Canadian Appeal Tribunal, which all the dioceses and most of the eparchies in the country are currently using as their tribunal of second instance. The Bishops decided on retaining the Canadian Appeal Tribunal, as well as on the approach to be used to cover its operating expenses.

The Bishops received the annual report of the Catholic Organization for Life and Family (COLF). They also participated in an evaluation of COLF’s mandate and how it functions. Co-founded 20 years ago by the CCCB and the Supreme Council of the Knights of Columbus, COLF’s mission is to build a culture of life and a civilization of love by promoting respect for human life and dignity and the essential role of the family. The Bishops noted the importance of COLF and the quality of its resources.

Plenary 2016 - 18