Singapore Catholic Church Details Processes for Investigating Child Abuse Allegations
Channel News Asia
September 6, 2018
|(Photo: Facebook/Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Singapore)|
The Catholic Church in Singapore on Thursday (Sep 6) revealed in greater detail the processes it has put in place to deal with any allegations of child abuse and its commitment to promote a safe environment.
The details, posted online on the church's news platform The Catholic News, come five days after the Archbishop of Singapore Most Reverend William Goh revealed in a pastoral message that there were "a handful" of allegations of abuse involving the Church in Singapore.
Those cases were handed over to the Professional Standards Office (PSO) of the Archdiocese for investigation and later judged to be inconclusive, he added in the post on Sep 1.
On Thursday, the church revealed in detail how the PSO deals with such cases and the steps taken to promote a safe environment.
"The Catholic Church in Singapore has in place a document that promotes a safe environment, including the implementation of a protocol to receive any complaint of sexual abuse or harassment of a minor or young person," it said.
This document, it said, sets out the procedures to "ensure a just treatment of all complaints in a transparent and judicial manner".
Allegations may be against priests, as well as employees or volunteers in the Archdiocese, it added.
COMPLAINANTS ADVISED TO REPORT TO AUTHORITIES
According to the post, the PSO "strongly advises" all complaints to be reported to the appropriate civil authorities to ensure that investigations are carried out professionally and independently.
Once the matter has been reported to the authorities, the PSO will cease all involvement until the results of the investigations are out. The alleged perpetrator will be suspended from duty until the authorities have concluded their investigations and the Archbishop has been notified of the results.
Where the investigation finds the case to be inconclusive or if the accused is found not guilty, the Archbishop will decide if the accused is to return to duty, the post stated.
If the accused is found guilty and if the case involves a member of the clergy, "Rome will be duly informed", after which it will invoke the applicable provisions of Canon Law and instruct the Archbishop to execute accordingly, it added.
In addition to this, the accused will be "subject to sentencing according to the laws of the land", and "the work of restoring communion will then begin".
CONVENING AN INQUIRY COMMITTEE
Should a complainant choose not to file a police report, the PSO will convene an inquiry committee to look into the matter.
The PSO would require the complainant to sign a statutory declaration assuring that the statements and facts raised are true and accurate.
"Should the complainant choose to lodge a police report midway through the inquiry, he or she has the right to do so, in which case the PSO inquiry committee will immediately cease its investigations so as not to obstruct or interfere with the operation of any relevant agency or civil authorities.
It is always the preference of the PSO that civil authorities conduct investigations to avoid any bias or partiality, according to the post.
The church revealed that the PSO is made up professionals comprising senior law counsels, former district judges, senior lawyers, legally trained persons, psychologists, as well as people in senior management, some of whom are not Catholics but have come forward to assist the PSO in its work.
It said: "The investigations by PSO and the outcomes are confidential, including all the proceedings at any inquiry.
"At no point during the investigation does the Archdiocese or the Archbishop’s Office interfere with the investigations by the PSO Inquiry Committee or Review Committee. It is only when its findings are concluded that PSO furnishes the Report to the Archbishop, through the Archbishop’s delegate."