Guidelines in Response to Accusations

Guidelines for Initial Response to Accusations

An accused priest needs civil and canonical lawyers to protect themselves. At the beginning the priest needs to ADMIT NOTHING, slow down, and seek advice from canon & civil lawyers (cf. further resources below). If called to the Chancery it is best not to go alone. An accused person needs to NOT TRY IMMEDIATELY FIX THINGS.

General Overview Points

  • All priests are mandated reporters for allegations of another priest’s sexual abuse. All priests should remember that they MUST report abuse to the civil authorities (unless within a sacramental confession). If contacted by an accused priest, it is best to remind the accused priest before they tell their story that the listener MUST report abuse to the civil authorities. The caller needs to be reminded before they tell their story that priests MUST report abuse to the civil authorities.
  • An accused priest needs to be in contact with his priest friends, civil and canon lawyers, and family members.
  • Because the diocese will not offer emotional or moral support, the accused priest needs to take the initiative in seeking support from those who already support him. A circle of friends wants to help but they often need the priest to reach out first to give them permission to support him in his time of need.
  • Journal and document content of conversations and meetings including phone calls and those who attended.

Before the first Chancery meeting

  • When going to the chancery it is advised always take a lawyer or a priest friend to all meetings.
  • Request diocesan financial support for paying legal representation.
  • When at a meeting with the chancery personnel remember: “Whatever you say, WILL BE USED AGAINST YOU!
  • At the chancery meeting take copious notes. Write them up in a letter and send to the chancery with the note “This is what I heard at our meeting today. Please correct anything I may have missed.”
  • If necessary, the accused has the right to talk with their lawyer in private. However, this does not apply to a private meeting with a non-lawyer.
  • Do not sign any papers or forms unless fully advised of consequences. For example, once a pastor resigns many of his rights are gone. If the diocese says it is to “your benefit to admit guilt, cooperate and resign”, know that is not true.
  • The accused should not give the diocese their phone or computer unless the parish has paid for it. The police will take it if necessary. If necessary, remind the police that these belong to you and not to the diocese.
  • Follow the advice of both lawyers. They are working to protect your rights – not the diocese.

After the first meeting:

  • The accused should call their priest friends and give them your address, email, and phone number.
  • All meetings with family, friends and lawyers should be OFF church property for privacy’s sake.

If an accused has not followed the above guidelines, then the following needs to take place:

  1. Obtain Canonical and Civil legal representation as soon as possible.
  2. Request diocesan financial support for paying legal representation.
  3. Because the diocese will not offer emotional or personal support, the caller needs to take the initiative in seeking support from those who already support him. A circle of friends wants to help but they often need the priest to reach out first to give them permission to support him in his time of need.

Guidelines for all subsequent Chancery Meetings

  • When going to the chancery it is advised always take a lawyer or a priest friend to all meetings.
  • When at a meeting with the chancery personnel remember: “Whatever you say, WILL BE USED AGAINST YOU!”
  • At the chancery meeting take copious notes. Write them up in a letter and send to the chancery with the note “This is what I heard at our meeting today. Please correct anything I may have missed.”
  • If necessary, the accused has the right to talk with their canon & civil lawyer in private. However, this does not apply to a private meeting with a non-lawyer.
  • Do not sign any papers or forms unless fully advised of consequences. For example, once a pastor resigns many of his rights are gone. If the diocese says it is to “your benefit to admit guilt, cooperate and resign”, know that is not true.
  • The accused should not give the diocese their phone or computer unless the parish has paid for it. The police will take it if necessary. If necessary, remind the police that these belong to you and not to the diocese.
  • Follow the advice of both lawyers. They are working to protect your rights – not the diocese.
  • The accused should call their priest friends and family. Give them your address, email, and phone number.
  • All meetings with family, friends and lawyers should be OFF church property for privacy’s sake.

Further Resources:

AUSCP Mutual Support Committee

If you would like to contact the AUSCP for further information, you may call or email the following members of the AUSCP Mutual Support Committee:

Rev. Mike Bausch, Rochester NY diocese, michaelbausch@dor.org , (585) 314-2602
Rev. Bob Bonnot, Youngstow, OH diocese, auscpbonnot@gmail.com, (330) 397-1257
Rev. Kevin Clinton, St.Paul/Mpls diocese, kevin@kevindome.com, 952-758-4225
Rev. Jim Musumeci, Secular Institute, jsmusumeci@gmail.com , 917-612-2298
Rev. Bill Nolan, Madison, WI Diocese, wan.3rd@hotmail.com, (608) 751-4545
Rev. Ed Palumbos, Rochester NY diocese, Palumbos@dor.org , (585) 749-4989
Rev. Eugene Pocernick, Milwaukee Diocese, epocernic@gmail.com, 414-758-5715
Rev. Michael Sullivan, JCL, St.Paul/Mpls diocese, frmike@sjtw.net , (763) 425-6505
Rev. Dan Walsh, Buffalo NY diocese, frdanwalsh@gmail.com , (716) 574-4651

Canon Lawyers

  • The Canon Law Society has a list of canon lawyers who might be willing to work with them. A list can be found on the Canon Law Society web page: clsa.org
  • Justice for Priest and Deacons, (Robert Flummerfelt, JCD in Las Vegas, NV, phone #702-221-1989, email address: robert@canonlawlv.com.)

Priest Support Networks

  • Men of Melchizedek mission is to find solutions to the problems confronting priests in accordance with the authentic teaching of the Catholic Church. The organization was formed in response to priests and bishops who requested urgent, confidential assistance in finding solutions to the proper care and treatment of priests in need. Assistance is available 365 days a year to priests facing emergencies in their personal lives or ministry.
  • Opus Bono Sacerdotii was founded in response to many sensitive situations with priests requesting confidential assistance for unique problems. Opus Bono works quickly and confidentially to facilitate help for priests experiencing difficulties through a network of experts in various fields that can provide appropriate care. Opus Bono offers retreats at various times of the year for quiet, reflective prayer and support.
    • For more information: 1-866-425-4692
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