National Catholic Register

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What Happens When an Accusation Is Made

BY Tim Drake

REGISTER SENIOR WRITER

April 25-May 8, 2010 Issue | Posted 4/20/10 at 11:05 AM

 

Andy Eisenzimmer, chancellor for civil affairs in the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis, spoke to the Register about the steps that are taken by a diocese when an accusation of misconduct is brought forward.

Typically, said Eisenzimmer, accusations come in through a victim-assistance coordinator. According to the 2002 Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, each diocese must have a victim-assistance coordinator who can be identified and easily accessible.

The next step is notifying the proper civil authorities, whether that’s a county sheriff’s office, child-protection service or some other agency. Usually, under the auspices of that organization, an investigation is undertaken.

“What happens next depends upon what the civil authorities are doing,” said Eisenzimmer. “We have to defer to their investigative process. Under canon law, the diocese also must conduct a preliminary investigation.”

That preliminary investigation involves interviewing the accused to determine the individual’s response and what ministry restrictions might need to be made. The chancellor for civil affairs works in tandem with the diocese’s chancellor for canonical affairs.

Support and counseling are provided for the victim.

Whether there is admission or not, it must be determined if the accused should be removed from ministry or whether it’s possible to integrate that person back into ministry following therapy. The bishop can use the assistance of his clergy review board — another mandate of the charter — to help make such determinations.

If the preliminary investigation reveals that there is sufficient evidence that misconduct has occurred, a report is made to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and the accused is notified of his opportunity to seek criminal defense counsel and canonical counsel to advise him. If he admits misconduct, the therapeutic process may also begin.

“If it’s determined that there has been misconduct, there will no longer be any place in ministry for that person,” said Eisenzimmer. “A determination is made whether the accused will voluntarily seek a dispensation from the clerical state or if that process needs to be begun by the diocese.”