"Ministry to sex offenders, including those who have offended in the Church, is also important in the healing of the Church, as well as ensuring that the commitment to provide for a safe environment is clear and strong"
(Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors)
1.6.1 Every Catholic has the obligation and the right to attend the public celebration of the Liturgy on Sundays and holy days of obligation. Where a Registered Sex Offender (RSO) expresses a wish to participate in a religious service in a parish, an assessment of potential risk of harm must be made by the statutory authorities. Police Scotland has agreed with each Diocese in Scotland an Information Sharing Protocol19Section C: Information Sharing Protocols with Police Scotland which is governed by the system known as the Multi Agency Public Protection Arrangements (MAPPA) which the police service, local authority, prison service, health service and others are statutorily obliged to operate on a multiagency basis, with the objective of protecting the public from the risks that may be posed by sex offenders.
1.6.2 In practical terms, this means that, when a convicted Registered Sex Offender expresses a wish to worship in a Catholic Church in Scotland, the relevant personnel from Offender Management or Criminal Justice will make contact with the appropriate Diocesan Safeguarding Adviser to discuss if appropriate safe arrangements can be made. It may be possible to create a safe context for the individual to worship with the implementation of a Registered Sex Offender Contract.20Section C: Exemplar Contract for Sex Offender wishing to worship in Church
1.6.3 The key people to be considered when making such arrangements are:
- children and others at risk: whose care and protection must be our first priority
- Registered Sex Offender: whose spiritual needs require to be addressed with due regard to the safety and well-being of others
- Diocesan Safeguarding Adviser: the key person in creating the contract and acting as link between the Parish Priest and Police Scotland
- DRAMT: whose members will make an informed recommendation about the best place for the RSO to worship, how and when
- Sex Offender Management Unit and/or Criminal Justice Social Worker: will hold ultimate responsibility for monitoring the Registered Sex Offender in the community and assessing risk
- Parish Priest: his responsibility is the safety of all in his church, as well as the spiritual care of the offender.
- Parish Safeguarding Co-ordinator: whose role is to support the Parish Priest and to be vigilant to any potential or actual breach of the contract.
1.6.4 Personnel within Police Scotland know that their first point of contact should be the Diocesan Safeguarding Adviser. If ever a situation arises where initial contact is made with the Parish Priest, he must inform the Diocesan Safeguarding Adviser before any further steps are taken. There might also be a situation when the RSO makes direct contact with a Parish Priest and asks if he/she can worship in the Church. The Parish Priest must not make any agreement but immediately must contact the Diocesan Safeguarding Adviser who will inform the relevant personnel within Police Scotland.
1.6.5 Each request for such a contract must be considered by the DRAMT who will make an informed recommendation about the best place to worship, how and when. Each contract should be reviewed every six months. Contact between the statutory authorities and the Diocesan Safeguarding Adviser and Parish Priest must be maintained if there are any changes in circumstances, either for the RSO or in the parish. A meeting must be held with the Parish Priest, the Offender, the Diocesan Safeguarding Adviser (or designated representative, such as the Safeguarding Officer) and the relevant person from the Offender Management Unit or Criminal Justice.
1.6.6 The conduct of the RSO will be monitored by someone allocated from the Offender Management Unit. If, during the time the person attends a service, it is clear that he/she is not abiding by the agreed contract, then the Parish Priest must contact the Diocesan Safeguarding Adviser who must inform the Offender Management Unit immediately.
1.6.7 In all cases, the Contract must indicate the RSO’s level of actual or potential risk. The Contract should be written by the Diocesan Safeguarding Adviser, in discussion with the Sex Offender Management Unit personnel who will be fully aware of the details of the offences and also how that might impact in relation to risk in a parish context.
1.6.8 In most cases, agreement should be reached so that the individual can attend a specified Mass each weekend. In some circumstances and, again relating to potential risk, the individual might be required to sit in a specific area of the church, possibly accompanied by a nominated person. More unusually, it might not be possible to permit high-risk offenders to worship in the parish church. Arrangements can then be made for the individual to have his/her spiritual needs met privately. The Parish Safeguarding Co-ordinator must also be made aware that a sex offender is attending Church and has signed a contract. The PSC should be able to identify the RSO, in case of the Parish Priest being replaced by another priest for some reason or other (e.g., holidays). There might be circumstances when a Registered Sex Offender might seek to worship in other contexts, such as a Retreat Centre that celebrates a public Sunday Mass. Again, this can only be considered in consultation with the Retreat Centre Director, the Diocesan Safeguarding Adviser and Offender Management Unit.
1.6.9 It is essential that appropriate confidentiality measures are put in place when it has been arranged for a Registered Sex Offender to attend a parish service. However, any breaches in the contract or any risk, whether potential or actual, must only be shared between the Parish Priest, Parish Safeguarding Co-ordinator, Diocesan Safeguarding Adviser, the designated department within Police Scotland and a Criminal Justice Social Worker, if one has been assigned to the RSO.