Australian bishops and religious leaders are morally obliged to do everything they can to ensure police are aware of incidents of child sex abuse, the Truth, Justice and Healing Council affirmed yesterday.
Francis Sullivan, CEO of the Council, made the statement yesterday following the publication of an article in Crux magazine and the Guardian.
The articles say that the Vatican is telling newly appointed bishops 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.
A document that spells out how senior clergy members ought to deal with allegations of abuse, recently released by the Vatican, emphasised that, though they must be aware of local laws, bishops’ only duty was to address such allegations internally.
“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 training document states.
The training guidelines were written by a controversial French Monsignor and psychotherapist, Tony Anatrella, who serves as a consultant to the Pontifical Council for the Family. The Vatican released the guidelines – which are part of a broader training program for newly named bishops – at a press conference earlier this month and is now seeking feedback.
Details of the Church’s policy were first reported in a column by a veteran Vaticanista, John Allen, associate editor of Crux.
The Truth, Justice and Healing Council has called for a national provision in criminal law to oblige reporting.
Despite changes in some States, the law still does not require people who suspect a sexual offence has been committed, to report abuse, unless the child is under 16 years of age when the report is made.
“While bishops might not be obliged in all circumstances to report abuse, they are morally obliged to give as much information as possible to the police to ensure cases of abuse are dealt with in an efficient and timely manner to help ensure the offender is taken out of circulation and to limit the risk of further abuse,” Mr Sullivan said.
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