The Church in Italy will implement new guidelines against child sex abuse that have proved controversial because they impose a 'moral duty' but no legal obligation to report allegations to the police, reports SkyNews.
The rules, which came into force on Sunday, also oblige Catholic dioceses to exclude anyone with prior convictions involving children from working with minors, but make an exception for volunteers who are not subject to the same requirement.
In an official document published on Friday, the Italian Bishops' Conference said that this exception 'does not exclude the possibility or opportunity of requiring a copy of criminal records also for them.'
The guidelines state that collaborating with judicial authorities is 'important' but at the discretion of bishops - unlike in Germany or Ireland where Catholic bishops' conferences have imposed more binding rules.
Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, Italy's top cleric, defended the decision earlier saying: 'The Vatican requires national laws to be respected, and we know that there is no such duty (to report abuse) under Italian law.'
But the guidelines have sparked fury among victim support groups.
Italian bishops apply anti-abuse rules (SkyNews)