5.3.1 The Church has a responsibility to show care for the family of an accused person in a sensitive and discreet way. For many clergy and religious who have been accused and are subject to a criminal investigation, their parents and siblings are an important consideration throughout the process.
5.3.2 There should be a discussion about whether the accused wishes to inform his/her family and how much detail he/she wants them to know. At this point it is important to remember that, if the allegation was taken directly by the survivor to Police Scotland, then the Safeguarding Adviser, Bishop/Major Superior and the accused might know very little about the allegation. In Scotland the accused is usually interviewed towards the end of the investigation.
5.3.3 The accused has the right to withhold information from family members and to instruct the Bishop/Major Superior and Safeguarding Adviser to maintain this confidentiality. This can be potentially very diﬀicult for the family. If it is agreed that the family can be told as much as the accused, this can also be very diﬀicult for them to hear.
5.3.4 Given the likelihood that the media will approach family members for comment, the Diocese/Religious Institute, with the accused person’s consent, should oﬀer them advice.
5.3.5 The emotions of family relatives in this situation will reflect the mix of emotions to be encountered in the parish of the cleric or religious. The family might express the following emotions:
- diﬀiculties in coming to terms with what is happening
- feeling excluded by their relative who is a priest or a religious
- confusion, shame, embarrassment, anger and hurt
- shock, disbelief and denial
- anxiety about options for the future
- feeling excluded by the Church
- concern about the impact on their own faith.
5.3.7 It is important to keep lines of communication and support open for the families of the accused. The Church must oﬀer a healing pastoral response. Referral to professional services such as counselling may be required. Having a designated contact person can help to maintain contact and allow a safe space, if the family wish to talk. That sense of accompanying a family can be greatly appreciated. A meeting with the Bishop, Major Superior or other member of the clergy or religious might also be helpful. The oﬀer of support from a priest, or another person who is trained and experienced in supporting the relatives of an accused person, might also be appreciated.