AUSCP: Association of United States Catholic Priests to issue all priests in the USA with a card (see below) similar to the ACP Information Card when asked to meet their bishops.
The Rights of Priests as contained in Canon Law approved by St. John Paul II.
While acknowledging the responsibility of priests to assist their bishop in determining the truth of an accusation, there are some things an accused priest needs to do as an investigation begins. If you receive an unexpected call from the chancery, ask what the reason is for you to come into the office. If it is because of some sort of allegation or they won’t tell you, ALWAYS take a trusted priest friend with you.
- You have the right to remain silent. Let your friend ask and answer questions. Not you!
- If accused of some canonical error, request the diocese to pay for a canon lawyer AND a civil lawyer of your choice to protect your rights in both venues.
- Do NOT resign your pastorate or your office. Sign nothing that day.
- Pause, listen, clarify, and ask others for advice. Reflect before agreeing to anything.
- Ask the person who accompanies you to take notes, to sign and date them in ink. It would be good if the diocese would do the same.
- All of the rights of the Christian Faithful also belong to clerics. (C208-223)
- In addition, clerics have rights and obligations (C273-289)
- These rights and most of these obligations remain even if you are suspended.
- If you are required to move, contact your priest friends and ask for support and frequent communications.
- Your friends want to stand beside you. They believe in you.
Visit the AUSCP for assistance at:
Letter from AUSCP to its members: October 2021
Dear Brother Priests,
You probably know of one or another priest who has been accused of sexual abuse, perhaps even yourself. The Association of U.S. Catholic Priests (AUSCP) is aware of such situations among its members and beyond. Some have been accused but exonerated. Others have been accused and convicted. Many others have been accused but ill-defined and protracted civil and ecclesial investigations leave them hanging for months and years. Some are never convicted or exonerated. This maybe aggravated if he is an international brother priest, probably left for deportation often with no due process at all. The protocols, standards, procedures, and communications (or lack thereof) vary greatly from one bishop and chancery to another. While the AUSCP understands the serious need for church authority’s due diligence and timely and appropriate response to accusations, and we remain steadfast in our pastoral care for those who have been victimized, we are concerned that our accused brother priests usually find themselves in extreme bewilderment, isolation, and abandonment.
Our Association is not one of lawyers, counselors, or experts in ecclesiastical protocols. Part of our Association’s mission is to provide mutual support to our brother priests. Our members have years of pastoral service ministering to men and women–innocent & guilty, victimized & convicted, isolated & supported.
While acknowledging the responsibility of priests to assist their bishop in determining the truth of an accusation, there are some things an accused priest needs to do as an investigation begins. AUSCP wants to send the enclosed card to every priest in the U.S. Just as in civil proceedings the “accused” is immediately informed of their Miranda Rights, so too the Code of Canon Law protects legitimate rights of priests as articulated by Canon Law. An accused priest needs to slow his immediate reaction down and seek immediate counsel and support.
Equally important is pastoral support for accused priests needed from local brother priests. If you hear of a priest acquaintance who has been accused—contact him. You don’t have to “fix it” or “judge it,” just reaching into his isolation can make a big difference. On the other hand, if you are an accused priest, take the initiative and ask for support from your priest friends. Do not place yourself in immediate exile!
The few guidelines on the enclosed AUSCP wallet card can be of enormous help if you ever get such a call. The card has been prepared by AUSCP’s Mutual Support Committee with the help of seasoned canon lawyers. This group has 90 canon lawyers available and has helped countless accused or unjustly treated priests and deacons since 1997.
We encourage you to keep this card always at hand, best in your wallet, so if you get such a call you will know what to do. Additionally, we provide an e-mail address and phone number if you ever find yourself not knowing just what to do. In short, AUSCP exists to provide support as needed and/or requested.
Mike Bausch; Bob Bonnot; Kevin Clinton; Ed Palumbos; Mike Sullivan; Dan Walsh.