Catholic Church in Singapore to have stricter checks against abuse

ARCHBISHOP WILLIAM GOH.
ARCHBISHOP WILLIAM GOH.

The Catholic Church in Singapore will introduce additional safeguards to reduce the risk of sexual abuse within its parishes and lay organisations.

The head of the Catholic Church in Singapore, Archbishop William Goh, said yesterday that the Professional Standards Office (PSO) of the Archdiocese of Singapore, set up in 2011, which handles allegations of misconduct against clergy, employees and church volunteers, will soon announce how existing guidelines will be enhanced.

The archbishop said all priests and workers employed by the archdiocese must declare that they have not been convicted of any sex offences.

Those with known records will not be allowed to work in ministry or mingle with the vulnerable, he said in a statement posted yesterday on the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Singapore's website.

"Soon, all seminarians and novices who want to join priestly or religious life will not only have to sign this declaration but they would be subjected to more stringent psychological tests and background checks," he said.

There is also a need to ensure that church volunteers, especially those dealing with children, are vetted and cleared of sexual crimes against children, the archbishop added.

He appealed to lawyers, doctors, psychiatrists, and counsellors to offer their services to the PSO, which is staffed by lay professionals.

Archbishop Goh said that while there had been a handful of cases brought to the Church's attention, investigations by PSO found the cases to be inconclusive, and these were similarly confirmed by a church organisation in Rome.

 
 
 

He added that "to the best of my knowledge, there has been no cover-up" in the archdiocese here. His comments follow the findings by a grand jury in Pennsylvania of the largest investigation of sex abuse in the US Catholic Church, released last month.

It revealed that 301 priests in the state had sexually abused minors over the past 70 years.

It prompted Pope Francis to issue a rare letter to Catholics around the world last month, condemning the priestly sexual abuse and its cover-up.

He also demanded greater accountability, and said that the Church would spare no effort to ensure that such situations never happened again.

Yesterday, Archbishop Goh said that such scandals abroad are a wake-up call for the Church.

"We are shocked and dismayed at the severity and extent of the abuse described," he said, noting that some of the clergy implicated in the offences operated at the highest echelons of the US Church.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on September 02, 2018, with the headline 'Catholic Church in S'pore to have stricter checks against abuse'. Print Edition | Subscribe