(April 5 2023)
This is the FINAL DRAFT of questions for Catholic Safeguarding with the CEO of the RLSS, the Catholic Safeguarding agency responsible for Catholic Religious Orders.
I will ask these questions in a VIDEO INTERVIEW with Dani Wardman, the CEO, shortly.
Please add suggested NEW QUESTIONS in Comments below.
I will try and incorporate your new questions into the Interview.
And do say if you think my existing questions could be improved.
The Questions are FAQs that Survivors have raised and not had answered. They are designed to identify the problems and what we’re looking for.
The video interview will be available for viewing on my site and on the RLSS website as a youtube. Comments on the interview will be welcome on the RLSS site, which I hope will form the start of a ‘SURVIVORS DISCUSSION BOARD’ (like Mumsnet)
I’m trying to keep the questions generalized as far as possible and NOT quote specific Religious Orders. Not least because they should apply to all ROs.
Otherwise the RLSS may say the questions are ‘off limits’ as there may be a current investigation.
We will probably have to do this in TWO INTERVIEW SECTIONS in order to do all the subjects justice.
My thanks to CEO Dani Wardman for agreeing to be interviewed by a Survivor.
AFAIK, this is the first time a Survivor has video interviewed a key representative of an organization of the Catholic Church.
I’m hoping other leading Safeguarding officers will follow – which I believe can be a positive, informative and rewarding experience for all of us.
DRAFT OF INTERVIEW
*Brief introductions – who we both are.
Pat: ‘I’m a Survivor of childhood Catholic abuse and I run a blog for Survivors on patmills.wordpress.com’
Dani then explains which Religious Orders the RLSS protect.
*Viewer comments on this interview can be left on RLSS website XXXX? or on patmills.wordpress.com.
By agreeing to this interview, Dani, you are proactively supporting Survivors and providing us with valuable information, for which I thank you.
1) If a Survivor has an allegation against a Religious Order, do they go to Diocese Safeguarding (contact email) or the RLSS (contact email)? What’s the procedure?
2) Some Survivors don’t know which Safeguarding agency to go to because their cases involve all the agencies.
For example, in my case – which involves a Catholic Laity organisation– there’s a strong overlap between the RLSS, the CSSA, possibly Diocese Safeguarding, and even the Vatican Dicastery. for the Laity
Although, in fact, Catholic Laity organizations – with the exception of the Dicastery – don’t appear to be officially covered or audited by any Safeguarding agency.
How would you advise myself and other Survivors to proceed?
3)With allegations of abuse against Religious Orders, especially ‘historic’ cases, we Survivors have hit a big problem:
A)Police are most unlikely to follow up unless abuser is still alive.
B) Legal action is hard work, it’s triggering, it turns Survivors into reluctant detectives, it’s adversarial which many Survivors don’t want, and ‘historic’ cases are open to numerous legal challenges, so it’s not for the faint hearted.
How can the RLSS help us when A) and B) above are so problematic?
4) I hope there are many proactive things RLSS can do to help us and I’d like to discuss some of them. For example:
Encourage Religious Orders to appoint an independent investigator to look into historic allegations.
This has definitely happened in the past.
But what are the criteria to launch such an investigation?
5) Ireland has some proactive solutions in responding to issues with Religious Orders. For example:
‘Through the civil legal process we swiftly offer financial compensation to minimize further stress to those abused’
The Carmelite apology that follows is lengthy and feels sincere to me, and I’ve never seen the equivalent in the UK.
Is it possible for RLSS and its ROs to follow this Carmelite example?
6) Could the RLSS get us some media support so that we Survivors have a voice there.
For example a Catholic media report/interview with the Catholic Herald, the Tablet, or a suitable authoritative Catholic Facebook site? In which I, and/or another Survivor/s, state our viewpoint, rather thanSafeguarding talking ‘on our behalf’.
RELEVANT NEWSWORTHY CATHOLIC MEDIA EXAMPLE:
In the Tablet, there was:
The Comboni scandal and why the Church must learn from abuse survivors. Bede Mullen, a spokesman for the survivors’ group, said their experience (meeting Pope) has shown that “openness and dialogue does so much” and hoped it would encourage other victims.
Father Small of the Vatican Safeguarding has indicated indirectly to me that the Comboni resolution may pave the way for resolving Survivors issues with other ROs and I’ve written back and very much welcomed his interest.
So there’s clearly a valuable Survivor-based follow-up media article: ‘After Comboni. The next step?’
7) A key frustration for Survivors is when no action can be taken because of a technicality on the role of the Religious Order.
An Insider, who is an authority on Religious Order Safeguarding had this to say to me: ‘I saw a report of a case where the Religious Order argued that the Home Office was an abuser’s employer and not the Order, and I think they should be beyond that kind of nitpicking at this stage.’
8) Some Religious Orders have their own Safeguarding Officers. If we can sometimes – where appropriate – communicate with them directly and raise issues with them that would be helpful. Often on relatively simple matters.
For example, two families of abuse victims, now deceased, desperately want to know what happened to their loved ones. I know of two such cases. In one recent case, we found the information the family needed through a Facebook Old Boys site. The Old Boys were fantastic and got in touch with the lay teachers for the family.
But it might have been quicker to have approached the Religious Order direct, but no one knows how.
Is that feasible?
And we British Survivors are envious of the Carmelites:
‘Some victims and survivors of abuse also benefit from face-to-face meetings. Many have met and spoken with our Provincial and DLP for Safeguarding. These conversations are ongoing.’
I would definitely benefit from a face- to-face opportunity – via Zoom – and other Survivors have said the same to me.
Is that feasible?
9) Two related questions in response to my Twitter appeal for questions to ask the RLSS.
What commitment do RLSS have from clergy that they will obey the law in regard to mandatory reporting of child sexual , no matter where the information is obtained? There is no “zero tolerance” without total commitment!
Replying to @PatrickEMills
Why have they not implemented zero tolerance?
10) The Carmelite case prompted this question on Twitter.
‘Are they (The Carmelites) not vicariously liable for their inaction and turning a blind eye. As liable as MrMcClean (the abuser)’
Today, in Australia, there was a relevant ruling:
- Victoria’s highest court has ruled the Catholic church is vicariously liable for sexual abuse by a priest
- An attempt by the church to appeal the ruling was quashed
- It has been hailed a significant victory for all survivors
What’s the position in the UK? Is the Church vicariously liable for its clerics and religious order members? In the case I quoted about the Home Office it would seem not.
QUESTIONS FOR PART TWO
11) Survivors I’ve spoken to are unclear about the two organizations set up during and after IICSA. Was it the UK Bishops who initiated the RLSS and the CSSA? If a Survivor had a complaint about a safeguarding agency, who would they take that to? The Bishops, or another body?
12) I know many members of Safeguarding agencies are not Catholic. Being non-Catholic has huge advantages but also disadvantages, which I think is worth noting – for example, I’m not sure if non-Catholics truly understand the impact of the childhood Oath of Allegiance and the relevance and importance of Canon Law.
So when I was looking for a therapist, I insisted it had to be someone with a Catholic background, otherwise they wouldn’t understand what I was talking about.
How are non-Catholic safeguarding officers fully briefed on detailed Catholic matters, such as the Oath of Allegiance?
13) Next, I’d like to interview the CEO at the CSSA in a similar way to this.
But if the CEO can’t comment on historic matters – as they are only involved with current allegations – would I need to do a similar interview with – say – a Diocese Safeguarding officer as well?
I’d like both such interviews to be posted on the RLSS site because – as I said earlier – there’s a tremendous overlap between the three organizations with similar matters of concern.
And Survivors concerns need to be read in one place, prior to our own ‘SURVIVORS DISCUSSION BOARD’
Could you help facilitate this next interview or interviews?
14) I know some Religious Orders have files on key abusers – and other relevant historical records.
Does the RLSS have the authority to contact the Religious Order and ask to see the records on ‘X’ and consider the contents on behalf of the Survivor and what could be appropriate to pass on.
So they still remain confidential but we Survivors know more about the person who harmed us. For instance, the file might disclose and confirm that ‘X’ was a multiple abuser, which Survivors don’t always know.
15)Allowing for the significant drop in numbers of members in Religious Orders, what I have read suggests there are still allegations of Religious Order current abuse cases today.
Without being specific, are you able to talk about the statistics around current RO abuse?
16) It would be encouraging if Survivors were actual members of Safeguarding teams.
I appreciate that information is confidential, but I know that’s something you’re keen on.
And it would be valuable for Survivors if a Safeguarder acknowledged they had a similar background. It would mean we were all on the same page. This isn’t a question, it’s rather a point that I wanted to raise.
17) I’d just like to return to the Irish Carmelite example we discussed in Part One of this interview.
Following the sentencing of John McClean, ‘Anyone who was abused in a Carmelite school can access support through the Carmelite Safeguarding Office. Counselling and therapy can be arranged through the Towards Healing service. This can be sourced promptly with minimum waiting times and with no costs to the victims and survivors’
Can the RLSS help similar ROs establish a similar quick and free funding therapy service for Survivors?
18) Thanks for your input, Dani. And we both of us really welcome any comments or thoughts on this interview.
In the long run, if this works, there is the potential for a more ambitious Survivors discussion board – such as Mumsnet.
A Survivorsnet would be able to pursue threads with subjects like recollections of particular schools, teachers, and discussions on Canon Law and PTSD therapy systems: what works and what doesn’t. In my case, I would like to start a thread on Recovered Memory, which I have detailed and positive knowledge of and I’d like to share.
In short, a ‘Survivorsnet’ provides information and support to Survivors – whereas at present we’re all isolated
But I know the key question for you, Dani, is… Is such a discussion board what Survivors want and what do they hope it will achieve?
Is there anything you’d like to add here, Dani?
So do please send us your thoughts on whether a future ‘Survivorsnet’ is a good idea. I’m also on Twitter as @PatrickEMills, so you can reach out to me there.