Comments: Clergy Discipline Measure - consultation on Rules and Code of Practice

It's wonderful that we are asked to make our comments on these documents by the Tuesday after Easter Week. In effect it means that busy and conscientious parish priests can spend Easter week pondering on these serious matters. Two things strike me immediately, both from the Code of Practice. (1) The bishop's role. It says "It is the duty of the diocesan bishop to administer discipline over clergy. It is also the duty of the bishop to provide pastoral support for clergy within his cure. The performance of these duties may be delegated, but the diocesan bishop retains overall responsibility. **However, at all stages it is crucial that the bishop must personally avoid all pastoral involvement whether with the complainant, respondent or anyone else, in matters that are, or could become, subject to disciplinary proceedings**." [Emphasis in the original]. So here we have legal justification for the increasing remoteness of the bishop from the pastoral care of his priests.

(2) In para 36 it says "The complaint must specify the name and address of the complainant. No anonymous complaints will be considered under the Measure. In exceptional circumstances, the identity of the complainant may be withheld from the respondent if it is in the interests of justice to do so." My wife, human rights and employment lawyer, says that this is taking a model of criminal proceedings (preventing the suborning of witnesses) and applying it to an employment law procedure. How do you feel about the prospect of having, in effect, anonymous complaints investigated against you becuase the diocesan registrar is concerned that : "there may be a risk of interfering with witnesses, intimidating the complainant or destroying evidence" (para 74)?

Posted by Justin Lewis-Anthony at Friday, 25 February 2005 at 8:40am GMT
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