St. Silouan the Athonite Mission Parish

Priest Musings

A Code of Behaviour
by Fr Roberto Ubertino

I want to raise an issue that has been left for too long unaddressed. At the Mission, including the parish, we have people who come from many different backgrounds. Some of the people have been physically abused and are particularly sensitive to unwanted touching. Individuals should not feel that they have a “right” to go around giving people hugs, “massages”, arm twists or any other form of uninvited touching to anyone he/she feels should get this kind of treatment.

 

This kind of behaviour is not acceptable and is potentially hurtful to the people who are most vulnerable. The parish needs to be a place where people can come and feel safe. This has not always been the case and in the spirit of protecting the vulnerable, especially children, we wish to establish clear boundaries and procedures to ensure the parish is a safe place. There have been justified serious complaints that have been addressed. Additionally, it is a violation of the Human Rights Code of Canada. Whilst the Code applies particularly to the workplace it also has implications for a public community such as a parish.

 

Of particular concern is the safety and protection of children. The first line of responsibility lies with the parents of a child. Parents should ensure that they properly supervise their children. PHOS teachers act in loco parentis (“in the place of the parent”) during class time. If a parent has any concerns about the behaviour of another adult he/she should immediately bring it to the attention of the deacon. The deacon is appointed with the blessing of Protopresbyter Maxym Lysak, the Dean of our diocese in Canada, to handle complaints as they arise. He acts, in such cases only, independently of the parish priest (at the parish priest’s behest) but independently. This is to avoid any conflict of interest that a priest may have if he is the spiritual father/confessor of the person about whom a complaint is made.

 

It is not the intention to make the parish a cold heartless place but in order that the human dignity of each person is maintained, and the vulnerable protected, the following guidelines regarding physical contact should be observed:

  1. do not force, or impose, any physical contact with another person
  2. do not assume that another person wants to be touched
  3. respect another person’s “space’
  4. treat all other persons with respect for normal boundaries of behaviour
  5. do not touch children without the knowledge and permission of a parent
  6. if a parent asks you to stop; do so immediately and without question
  7. if any other person asks you to stop; do so immediately and without question
  8. if you observe inappropriate behaviour do not assume that it has been recognized, report it at once
  9. if you are in doubt as to whether a certain behaviour is inappropriate, do not do it!

It is sad that it has become necessary to bring up this issue and we do so only to assure each person in the parish that his/her dignity is and will be protected. Those who cannot, or will not, show such respect also needs to know that his/her behaviour may be the grounds from expulsion from the community of both the parish and the Mission.

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