Pastoral Response is a vital component of Title IV. It is one of the first priorities to accompany all phases of the process for all participants. The canonical requirement for Pastoral Response is one of the important differences between past disciplinary processes and Title IV. Title IV.8 details a structured response and the goals to promote “healing, repentance, forgiveness, restitution, justice, amendment of life and reconciliation among all involved or affected.”
It is the Bishop’s responsibility to provide for the appropriate Pastoral Response. Often the Intake Officer implements the Pastoral Response, coordinating with the bishop and Advisors to those involved. In this section of the website, church leaders and other experts emphasize that best practices mandate Pastoral Response be given not only during the process, but after the Title IV process ends. Additionally, all agree the time to plan and train for proper Pastoral Response does not start with a Title IV proceeding, but rather long before a Title IV complaint is filed in a diocese. Most of the experts recommended a team approach for Pastoral Response. It’s important that the diocese be sensitive to the needs of individuals and provide Pastoral Response accordingly. Canon Robin Hammeal-Urban of the Diocese of Connecticut has been an Intake Officer and is a church-wide authority on Title IV.
Experts agree with the importance of establishing a team with a number of professional disciplines. This includes clinically trained persons and lawyers in addition to clerics. Often, Title IV offenses involve substance abuse, mental health, or other medical conditions. Additionally, some Title IV offenses might coincide with secular offenses; for example abuse and/or financial complaints. Team members in various disciplines are necessary to determine proper Pastoral Responses. The Diocese of North Carolina is one of the leaders in the trained team approach to Pastoral Response. The Rev. Canon Michael Hunn was the early facilitator of the team and its extensive once-a-month training. He says it is important to have more members of the team than a single Title IV process would require. This is because there can be conflicts of interest among those on the team and various participants.
However, Pastoral Response teams need more than professional experts. Experts are not always proficient at pastoral care. The Bishop for the Office of Pastoral Development of the Presiding Bishop’s Office says the diocese needs to observe how those in Pastoral Response roles listen to others. The priority in a Title IV proceeding is the Complainant or others who may need pastoral care. Bishop Todd Ousley says one needs to understand dynamics in such matters.
Another area of confusion in some dioceses is whether the bishop should be part of the Pastoral Response. The Rev. Gay C. Jennings states that bishops are “called and take a vow to be pastor to their clergy.” However, in matters of Title IV, often best practices suggest the bishop should not be the pastor to a Respondent. The bishop can create a conflict of interest by doing so, as the bishop is also part of the process.
If a bishop determines a priest needs to be removed for the well-being of the congregation during a Title IV proceeding, another potential Pastoral Response crisis may unfold. Pre-planning and extensive training allow a quick response to a congregation overwhelmed with the knowledge that their priest is in a Title IV proceeding, or has been removed by Pastoral Direction. Even if the priest returns, there is the need for Pastoral Response. Often a rumor or mere speculation that a Title IV process is underway can create the need for quick response.
Canon Michael Hunn adds there is another benefit to a team approach. It’s good in any situation where a priest might be absent from a congregation. Well-prepared Pastoral Response teams may serve in circumstances other than a Title IV proceeding. He says the diocese where he served had over a dozen people on the team. They were attorneys, clinical therapists, spiritual directors, deacons, priests, and lay people.
It is also important that whomever the bishop selects for a Pastoral Response understand boundaries in congregations. The Canon to the Ordinary of the Diocese of Georgia makes the point the congregation needs to stay out of a Title IV proceeding, except for offering prayers. A proper Pastoral Response may consist of fostering awareness that the diocese is handling an issue and not “sweeping it under the rug.”
It is clear that Pastoral Response needs to be immediate and carried out by trained people. Canon Michael Hunn says a bishop is ultimately responsible for providing Pastoral Response, but he or she shouldn’t do it alone. He also details how the Diocese of North Carolina works with case study scenarios to train for a variety of Title IV possibilities.