The Archdiocese Professional Standards Office (“PSO”) was set up in 2011 after studying the processes in Australia. This was done during the time of Archbishop Nicholas Chia. It was set up to deal with sexual abuse against children and young people.
More recently, the Vatican had instructed every Diocese to have its own office to deal with incidences of sexual abuse and harassment of minors and young people. The Catholic Church in Singapore has in place a document that promotes a safe environment, including the implementation of a protocol to receive any complaint of sexual abuse or harassment of a minor or young person.
In line with this, we have begun to put in place certain instructions and best practices for parishes to adhere to. The PSO will continue to strengthen the safe environment initiatives through training, workshops and internal communications.
Besides establishing safe environments, the PSO has a second duty of handling any complaints of sexual abuse or harassment of a child or young person. The document sets out the procedures to ensure a just treatment of all complaints in a transparent and juridical manner restoring communion for all parties concerned. Allegations may be against priests, religious, employees or volunteers in the Archdiocese.
Any allegation of sexual abuse of a minor is a serious matter and treated with utmost urgency and confidentiality. To ensure that the investigations are carried out professionally and independently and at arm’s length, the PSO strongly advises all complaints to be reported to the appropriate civil authorities. Once the matter has been reported to the civil authorities, the PSO will cease all involvement until the results of the civil investigations are out. Pending the outcome of the investigations, the alleged perpetrator will be suspended from duty until such time when the civil authorities have concluded their investigations and the Archbishop is notified of the results. Where the investigation finds the case to be inconclusive or the accused is found not guilty, the Archbishop will then make the final decision as to whether or not the person is to be returned to duty, having consulted with the relevant Church bodies. Where the investigation finds the person guilty, and involves a member of the clergy, Rome will duly be informed. Based on the applicable provisions of Canon Law, Rome will then invoke the applicable provisions and instruct the Archbishop to execute accordingly. In addition to this, the guilty party will be subject to sentencing according to the laws of the land. The work of restoring communion will then begin.
It may be that the complainant, for whatever reasons or difficulties unknown to the PSO, chooses not to file a police report. Under such circumstances, the PSO, upon receiving the complaint, will convene an Inquiry Committee to look into the complaint. The PSO would however require the complainant to declare in a Statutory Declaration that the statements and facts raised are true and accurate. Should the Complainant choose to lodge a police report midway through the inquiry, he/she has the right to do so, in which case, the PSO Inquiry Committee will immediately cease its investigations so as not to obstruct or interfere with the operation of any relevant agency or civil authorities. It is always the preference of the PSO that civil authorities conduct investigations to avoid any bias or partiality.
For matters within its purview and scope, PSO takes up every complaint that is lodged with it.
The PSO is made up of professionals comprising Senior Counsels (law), ex-District Judges, senior lawyers and legally trained persons, psychologists and people in senior management, some of whom are not Catholics but have come forward to assist the PSO in its work. The investigations by PSO and the outcomes are confidential, including all the proceedings at any Inquiry.
At no point during the investigation does the Archdiocese or the Archbishop’s Office interfere with the investigations by the PSO Inquiry Committee or Review Committee. It is only when its findings are concluded that PSO furnishes the Report to the Archbishop, through the Archbishop’s delegate.