The Archdiocese of Halifax is toughening up its rules on priests and staff members dealing with children.

Mandatory police checks, banning of corporal punishment and avoiding one-on-one scenarios are all being introduced.

The new rules for Halifax and the diocese of Yarmouth were drafted by Archbishop Anthony Mancini in response to the sex-abuse scandals that have arisen across the province. Some changes were required by the church’s insurance company.

Some new clauses state the obvious (“all physical contact between staff or volunteers and children, youth or vulnerable adults is to be completely non-sexual”), while others mark new developments for the church.

Starting now, any staff member who comes in contact with youth will need to undergo a criminal-record check.

Priests and staff are urged to pair up to avoid anyone being left alone with a youth. When one-on-one meetings must take place, such as for catechism instruction, they are to take place in rooms open to public view.

The 36-page “Responsible Ministry and Safe Environment Protocol” was designed in consultation with a professional PR firm, according to a letter from Mancini to all members of the archdiocese.

“Since last November, I have consulted with clergy, religious and laity of our church for their reactions, insights and recommendations,” reads Mancini’s letter dated March 15.

“Consistently, the messages I have received have been a call for a more transparent, open and accountable church.”

The new protocol comes after former Antigonish bishop Raymond Lahey was charged with possession of child pornography after having his laptop confiscated while re-entering the country in September.

Lahey’s trial is scheduled for April 2011.