The bishop has the power to restrict the ministry of a cleric at any time and in any stage of a Title IV process as defined in Title IV.7. However, the cleric may request a review of the order by either the Conference Panel or the Hearing Panel, determined by where the complaint is in the process. It is the role of the bishop to safeguard the church and its people from any further harm as alleged in a complaint if he or she sees immediate danger to others or property. Because of the potential for conflicts of interest and poor observance of boundaries, experts emphasize the need for the bishop to stay at arms’ length from interacting with the Respondent in areas such as Pastoral Response.
As stated, a common outcome in a Title IV procedure is a Pastoral Direction. A Pastoral Direction is also an opportunity for a bishop to take action in a matter that was a complaint, but not one that is canonically covered by Title IV. It is also a method to offer an outcome for a Title IV Offense without having the Offense reach further steps of the process.
There are also times when a bishop sees the need to stop a behavior or issue before it escalates over the time it may take for a drawn-out Title IV process. Occasionally, a Title IV process involves an administrative issue that can be corrected by a Pastoral Direction. Other times, the Respondent may be the party that wishes to keep a Title IV going forward by rejecting accords or other mediation. A Pastoral Direction may offer a middle-ground solution.
Failure to follow a Pastoral Direction can be a Title IV Offense, so it is an outcome with consequences. Even if a complaint is not moved forward because the behavior is not a Title IV Offense, the Pastoral Direction is a restriction on ministry under the Canons and offers the church a path forward, ensuring that the conditions of the direction are followed. Bishop Ohl cautions the bishop to make sure the Pastoral Direction is clear and that the cleric knows it is a direction from the bishop, in writing.
An in-depth canonical examination of the bishop’s role is found in the Structure and Procedures section of this website which can be reached at the top of this page