Members of Altar Servers’ Society at S’pore Parish Quit Over Allegations of Inappropriate Behaviour

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The Catholic Church in Singapore has investigated accusations of sexual misconduct between a former altar server and multiple underage altar servers aged as young as 11, according to The Straits Times.

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Singapore stated through a spokesperson the results of the investigation could not prove the accusations beyond reasonable doubt, but the altar server who was involved in the issue resigned last year and is now undergoing counselling.

Following the incident, about 10 members of the altar servers’ society, or about a third of its 30 active members, tendered their resignations, including its senior leadershipnamely, its chairman, president, and secretary.

For those of us who aren’t familiar with roles in a church, altar servers are lay people who aid the priest at the altar, as their name suggests.

The leaders of the society first raised the incident last year to the Professional Standards Office of the archdiocese, which was created to handle allegations of sexual abuse against children. 

This was after the leaders encountered a video showing the accused sharing a bed with a young man in 2019; such misconduct may have begun as early as six years prior.

The subject of the allegations has since resigned but is still permitted to be present at parish services.

Following the investigation conducted by the parish, the parents involved were informed of their right to make a police report, though none have done so so far, according to the spokesperson.

That a police report has not been made, together with the apparent inaction of parish leaders, is thought to be what triggered the resignations.

Once a police report is made, all church investigations will be suspended until the criminal investigation has concluded.

Stricter Checks against Abuse Already in Place

These allegations came despite strengthened measures against sexual misconduct put in place by the archdiocese since 2018.

These include requiring a declaration from all priests and workers that they have never committed a sex offence, and barring those with relevant records from working in ministry or with the vulnerable, according to The Straits Times in 2018.

Prospective workers for the Catholic Church would also undergo rigorous psychological testing and background checks, and the Archbishop of Singapore stressed the need to vet volunteers for sexual crimes against children.

These measures came on the heels of the largest sexual abuse case in the history of the U.S. Catholic Church, which had implicated 301 priests over 70 years and elicited a rare letter of condemnation from Pope Francis. 

“We are shocked and dismayed at the severity and extent of the abuse described,” Archbishop William Goh had commented in relation to the American investigation. 

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