Roman Catholic Priest, Father Brancker John, has said the role of the Priest is to take care of children at all times.
John, who spoke to the media during a consultation held with religious leaders on child abuse at the Dominica Public Service Union (DPSU) building on Monday, said the first move in society has to be the protection of children.
“I think that is where we lapse a bit here in Dominica,” he said. “So our role is to take care of children, care for them always and in every way that we can. My job as a Catholic Priest is first, make sure that I preach that word and to encourage families, caregivers, parents, that they can and should take care of those children. We are called as religious leaders to do the same thing and to ensure that our children know that they should be cared for by their parents and caregivers, they have to know that and sometimes that is where the problem is.”
He stated that children get confused as to what is an act of love and what is not.
“What they may perceive to be an act of love might actually be an act of abuse,” he stated. “So we have to learn to teach our children those things…”
John stated further that his responsibility as a Catholic Priest is to preach the gospel and specifically as it relates to taking care of God’s children.
“Jesus was very adamant as to how we should treat children,” he noted. “Let the children come to me, he says, do not hinder them for the Kingdom of Heaven belong to such as these.”
Father John is also of the view that the Sexual Offences Act should be reviewed, “especially as there are lots of confusion in regards to the age of consent.”
“Consent to do what? What are we saying our young people can consent to?” he asked.
He pointed out that the law says a 16-year-old is able to consent to sexual activity, but on the other hand they cannot get a driver’s license.
“So really there is a lot of confusion as to what sexuality is about and the role of sex in the community and what children are supposed to respond to…,” he stated. “So I would like to see that tackled and other things in the law: responsibility of adults, stiffer penalties, not just stiffer penalties but what are we called to do?”
Meantime he revealed that the Catholic Church is under a lot of pressure as it relates to child sexual abuse.
“The Catholic Church has responded, especially in the United States,” he explained.
However, he stated, polices are being put in place by the Church for the protection of children.
“Now we are advised that whenever we meet a minor for counselling, for discussion, for prayer, it is advisable that we do that in a place where an adult would have access to at anytime,” John explained. “Or if the room has to be closed, preferably done in a room where you can see through a glass door, so that there is no time when a minister or priest is alone with the child unsupervised, where an adult doesn’t have access to.”