It seems not if a story in today's Age is anything to go by.
**Update: it seems this story says more of some of the other parties involved than the diocese - see below.
Priests in abusive sexual relationships
The story alleges that a priest is back on normal parish duties after conducting a sexual relationship with a vulnerable young women (who received $100,000 in compensation) for some 14 years.
And the explanation given as to why he should be permitted to return to ministry after 18 months leave for s sin the psychologists say fit all the criteria of abuse:
"...a senior NSW church official, Michael Salmon, advised Ms Herrick's lawyer in writing that Father Knowles had ''committed to a prolonged, regular and very intensive and personally confronting program of therapy'' and he would ''return to full community life, and to public ministry''.
The Church concerned, St Francis', Melbourne, is run by the Blessed Sacrament Congregation.
Indeed, it seems the priest concerned, Fr Tom Knowles, who, unsurprisingly seems to have some interestingly heterodox opinions on the blessed sacrament, was the 'community leader' there until 2011 when the women concerned lodged a complaint after she had a breakdown and lost her job.
How can they get away with it?
In this case the sex abuse protocols do not apply, because the young woman in question was 22 when the by all acconts abusive and exploitative 'relationship' started.
Most of the focus to date has been on child sex abuse.
But breaches of celibacy more generally surely need to be taken seriously as well.
Priests, like all Christians are called to holiness. Yet they must also be held to a higher standard (hence those seven years or so of formation), because of their duty to teach and lead, which surely has to be by example as well as words. And anyway, will priests who disregard basic morality be inclined to preach it?
Moreover, priests who engage in clandestine relationships, whether involving an inherent abuse of power (and this one seems to have been) or not inevitably get caught in an ever growing spiral of lies, other sins and consequences.
What happens if the woman becomes pregnant for example?
I've heard all too many stories of the hierarchy becoming involved in the - yes you heard it - cover up.
Professor Neil Omerod of ACU sees such cases as the next big scandal, potentially bigger than the child abuse one. I agree.
Time for the hierarchy to get its act together on priestly morality more generally, and give those guilty the boot.
I've been advised by Archbishop Hart that the attempted return to ministry of Fr Knowles was done without the knowledge of diocesan authorities, and his faculties have since been removed.