As promised, the Archdiocese of Saint Paul  and Minneapolis has sent to clergy the attestation that they are expected to sign per the Child Protection Protocols of the Doe 1 settlement. Thankfully, there is an exemption for information learned in the confessional. There is also an exemption per the civil statutes on privileged communications.

According to the protocols, the Archdiocese is to make a 'good faith effort' to secure a signed attestation from each 'clergy member' who is 'working within the Archdiocese' by March 31, 2015. So, priests certainly don't need to rush to sign and return the document. I can't see how any canonical penalty can be imposed upon a priest or deacon for failing to sign, whether the refusal is the result of principle or guilt/knowledge. In fact, it is possible that the Archdiocese met its 'good faith' obligation simply by sending out the document to each member of the clergy.

The attestation, which you can view here, requires a priest, deacon, or bishop to attest that he has not 'sexually abused a minor at any time', nor does he have knowledge of any other priest, deacon, bishop, or employee of the Archdiocese having done so. The language of the document is vague to the point of being problematic. Moreover, as I have said before, I simply do not see the point of this. No one will be safer as a result of this document, whether it is signed or unsigned. Surely the time and effort spent sending these to hundreds of clergy could have been put to better use.


Greg Coulter
10/26/2014 8:20pm

I agree about the dubious utility in requiring priests to sign a document professing innocence of sexual misconduct. It reminds me of the "mandatum" requirement years ago. Its purpose was to ensure that orthodox theology was taught in Catholic seminaries and universities. The problem was that heterodox theologians, who rejected the authority of the church, could willingly sign it without qualms in order to stay employed. Only orthodox theologians took it seriously and they were the ones who did not need to sign it. It also reminds me of the old US citizenship application. Back in the day, applicants had to swear that they were not Communists. Of course, real communists would so swear and then continue to engage in subterfuge and espionage. Self-disclosure and self-monitoring is a waste of time. The Archdiocese needs to get more serious about monitoring the conduct of its priests and employees. An outside auditing firm would be a good first step.

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    Jennifer Haselberger is a canon lawyer who served as the Chancellor for Canonical Affairs in the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis until April of 2013, when she resigned in protest of the Archdiocese's handling of sexual misconduct by clergy.

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