Clergy to Be Profiled

By Renee Viellaris
The Courier-Mail [Australia]
December 12, 2006,23739,20919087-5007200,00.html

Future Anglican Church clergy will endure tough new psychological profiling to weed out potential pedophiles.

Under a rigorous initiative to be adopted by the Brisbane diocese, about 200 existing clergy, including Archbishop Phillip Aspinall, also will face regular reviews.

The measures, which could be introduced by next year, are being delayed as psychologists, lawyers and key clergy try to agree on the wording of a questionnaire that addresses intimate personal habits.

Plans for the strategy, called the safe ministry check, come four years after the diocese was ordered to pay $834,800 to a woman sexually abused as a child by a boarding master at a Toowoomba school. Revelations emerged at the time that former Brisbane archbishop Peter Hollingworth ignored allegations of sexual abuse, forcing his resignation as governor-general in 2003.

Diocese professional standards director Rod McLary said the new procedures would be among the first in Australia.

"When historical abuse allegation began emerging, the church locally and nationally began working to improve child protection policies, including screening procedures," Mr McLary said.

"Screening assessments are done at critical points along the journey to priesthood.

"The present work being done is the beginning of a whole process that will eventually cover all clergy and extend to all church workers in the future." Volunteers and some staff informally hired in the past will now have to meet selection criteria, sit for a formal interview and submit references for checking, Mr McLary said.

He said psychologists had tested candidates in the past but the new system would be more comprehensive and academic.

Under the process, a psychologist would meet a candidate and make recommendations issued to a small number of people in the diocese.

If the psychologist advises a candidate should not be taken on, the recommendation would be accepted in the absence of other key information.

"I think we can make an informed decision (but) there's no absolute of predicting abuse in the future," Mr McLary said.

Professional standards implementation chairman Reverend Alan Moore said only potential clergy priests and deacons would undergo the extensive psychological screening.

Reverend Moore said candidates would be tested when they applied to the Brisbane College of Theology and before they were ordained.

He said it was yet to be decided how often existing clergy would be reviewed but it could coincide with the biennial renewal of their blue card, a State Government requirement for people who work with children.

"We need to ensure they (new candidates) are psychologically sound (and) there are certain psychological instruments that can help to see if they are suitable for the job," Mr McLary said.

Other diocese are also likely to adopt similar measures.


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