Catholic church digitally fingerprinting priests
The Catholic Church is digitally fingerprinting priests who work with children.iStock

A Catholic church has confirmed it will start digitally fingerprinting priests and volunteers who work with children in a bid to protect minors from abuse.

The screening process is being implemented by the Catholic Church of Montreal and will see 10 churches take part in the process that requires those in "high risk" roles to provide digital fingerprints and police background checks.

The prints would be kept as individual records on file, allowing authorities to cross-check church staff. The pilot project also prevents priests, church employees and volunteers from being alone with children without having at least two adults who have undergone checks present, reports CBC News.

It hopes the 10-step screening process will act as a deterrent and aims to protect not only children but other vulnerable parties, such as the sick or the elderly.

"In terms of whether or not we were going to [implement the plan], that wasn't even in question. We're going. This has to happen," said Bishop Thomas Dowd, auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Montreal.

"The Catholic Church has to be the safest place for the vulnerable."

In one example case cited, priests who take confession with children, which would traditionally be private, will have another individual situated to be able to view them both, yet far enough away to not hear what is being said.

Currently, the digital checks have only been rolled out in 10 churches, however it is understood that by 2020 all 194 of the diocese's churches and ministries will have to follow these rules. Plans on whether this system will be applied to churches outside of Canada is not yet known.

"If someone would like to do something wrong or abuse anyone, knowing there's all this filtering, they won't ask to become volunteers in our church," said Bertrand Montpetit, pastor at St. Luke's Parish in Dollard-des-Ormeaux.