A training document released last week by the Vatican, which was issued to newly inducted bishops, states that it is “not necessarily” their duty to report accusations of clerical child abuse and that “only victims or their families should make the decision to report abuse to police.”
According to The Guardian, the internal document or “memo” gives a detailed modus operandi on how clergy members who face abuse charges are to “be aware of local laws,” adding that the bishops’ only duty is to address the allegations privately behind closed doors.
“According to the state of civil laws of each country where reporting is obligatory, it is not necessarily the duty of the bishop to report suspects to authorities, the police or state prosecutors in the moment when they are made aware of crimes or sinful deeds,” the documents states.
Catholic bishops not obliged to report clerical child abuse, Vatican says https://t.co/i9pmuRMrK7
— The Guardian (@guardian) February 10, 2016
The guidelines were released as part of a renewed training program for recently named bishops. A special commission was created by Pope Francis that was supposed to develop “best practices” to prevent and deal with clerical abuse.
However, reports indicate that the commission was neither consulted nor played any role in developing the training program. A church official said it was the committee’s position that reporting abuse to civil authorities was a “moral obligation, whether the civil law requires it or not” and it would be involved in future training efforts.
According to the Guardian, the guidelines downplay the legacy of systemic child abuse within the Catholic church.
Pope Francis has called for the church to install a “zero tolerance” stance on sexual abuse of minors or vulnerable adults by the clergy. He also said that “everything possible must be done to rid the church of the scourge of the sexual abuse”
“It’s infuriating, and dangerous, that so many believe the myth that bishops are changing how they deal with abuse and that so little attention is paid when evidence to the contrary,” said the victim’s rights group SNAP, who is a U.S.-based advocacy organization.