Some Catholic churches in Canada have banned priests from being alone with children—and more are about to start. The Catholic Church of Montreal says it will bar priests, volunteers, educators, and anyone else in "the orbit of the church" from being alone with children at 10 parishes beginning in September, reports the Toronto Star. The chancellor of the Montreal Archdiocese, Francois Sarrazin, says the pilot program, dubbed "Responsible Pastoral Ministry," is about "protecting victims, protecting families, protecting the church." In his comments, Sarrazin focuses on the sometimes untrue nature of allegations: "To give [their story] importance, a child can give an account of an incident that isn't always true."
"Imagine if you are alone in a room and a child accuses you of hitting them, how will you react?" Sarrazin continues. "Whether it's true or not, you need a witness. Not being in the room alone with someone who is vulnerable is simply being prudent." Even confession will take place with a priest and child within view of the child's parent, though out of earshot. Similar preventative policies are already in place in other churches in Ontario and New Brunswick, reports the National Post, which notes the directive will eventually include all 194 parishes in Montreal. New employees will also face a police check. Quebec's Association of Victims of Priests, however, says the new policy is only "a baby step. [The church] needs to do an awful lot more."