Church must be transparent in handling abuse accusations

Fr Hans Zollner SJ (CNS/Paul Haring)

The Head of Rome's Pontifical Gregorian University’s Centre for Child Protection has said the Church’s legal process for handling accusations of abuse must be more transparent. Source: The Tablet.

Jesuit Fr Hans Zollner was speaking to reporters on Friday at a ceremony awarding 18 people – religious and lay – diplomas for completing a specialisation course in safeguarding minors.

Even though the Church has all the necessary norms and laws in place to safeguard minors from abuse by clergy, the problem continues to be a lack of understanding or care about those rules and guidelines and applying them effectively, he said.

The legal process must be "more transparent for everyone", including the victims, the accused and his or her superiors, Fr Zollner said at the ceremony.

Victims receive no information during the process and the accused are left "in limbo" for what may be five years or more not knowing if they will be sentenced or even found guilty, he said. Not even the bishop or religious superior of the accused receives information about what's happening, he added.

So while the Church's definitions of what constitutes a crime and suggested sentences are clear, he said, what needs addressing is how to beef up the Church's legal system so that it can "actually bring justice to everyone" and truly protect minors.

Reporters also asked Fr Zollner about his thoughts concerning Pope Francis' decision to believe Bishop Juan Barros of Osorno, Chile, and not victims who claimed the bishop may have been aware of and even present during their abuse by the bishop's former mentor, Fr Fernando Karadima. The priest was sentenced to a life of prayer and penance by the Vatican after he was found guilty of sexually abusing boys.

But when pressed about doubts over whether the Pope listened to a Chilean survivor who had written a letter to the Pope that was to be hand delivered by Cardinal Sean O'Malley, head of the papal commission, Fr Zollner said he would have no way of knowing whether the Pope read the letter.

Yet, he said that when he once handed the Pope two letters, "I am quite certain he did not open these letters" based on the nature of the Pope's response.


Church must be more transparent in response to abuse, says head of child protection centre (The Tablet)

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