Protecting Your Rights as a Priest or Deacon
If the Vicar for Clergy (or another diocesan official) summons you to a meeting after informing you that you have been accused of sexual abuse or other misconduct; or, if you are summoned to a meeting without being given a reason:
- Immediately find yourself a competent canonist. You can always contact our office and we will try to help you and give you canonical advice.
- You should also contact a civil attorney especially of there is a possibility of a criminal case.
- Take your canonist, your civil attorney, or another reputable individual such as a fellow priest with you to the meeting. This will provide you with an individual witness to the proceedings and will limit the possibility that the meeting is mischaracterized or inappropriately interpreted at a later date. You should never go by yourself.
- Request that the Vicar for Clergy put the purpose of the meeting, including any and all specific allegations, in writing. If the Vicar for Clergy refuses to comply with this request, and you and your counsel decide to meet nonetheless. Take careful notes. Immediately after the meeting, compose a document summarizing your notes and stating that the Vicar for Clergy refused to disclose the purpose of the meeting before hand and/or that no specific allegations were provided to you in writing. Request that the Vicar for Clergy enter this document into your personal file at the diocese.
- Know that nothing you say to any agent of the diocese is considered legally confidential. Make no statements before consulting with your canonist and your attorney.
- During the meeting neither deny nor confirm anything; nor make any decisions or agreements. Just listen.
- Inform the Vicar for Clergy that you will expect to review your entire diocesan personnel file, and any other records kept about you in the Chancery, Tribunal, or Vicar for Clergy office, when you meet. It is possible that your file contains written complaints or allegations about you which you were never informed, even though you have the right to be informed of any such allegations. This is very often ignored.
If the Vicar for Clergy (or any other diocesan official) demands that you must undergo psychological testing or a psychological evaluation:
Know that you cannot be forced to undergo a psychological assessment or evaluation, and that you have the right to refuse the results of any such process. Note, however, that your decision not to undergo an assessment or evaluation may be interpreted against you in an ecclesiastical process.