TwitterFacebookPinterestGoogle+

Pope mandates reporting of sex abuse to church, not police

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis issued a groundbreaking new church law Thursday requiring all Catholic priests and nuns around the world to report clergy sexual abuse and cover-ups by their superiors to church authorities, in a new effort to hold the Catholic hierarchy accountable for failing to protect their flocks.

The law provides whistleblower protections for anyone making a report and requires all dioceses to have a system in place to receive the claims confidentially. And it outlines internal procedures for conducting preliminary investigations when the accused is a bishop, cardinal or religious superior.

Abuse victims and their advocates said the law was a step forward, but not enough since it doesn’t require the crimes to be reported to police and essentially tasks discredited bishops who have mishandled abuse for decades with policing their own.

It’s the latest effort by Francis to respond to the global sex abuse and cover-up scandal that has devastated the credibility of the Catholic hierarchy and his own papacy. And it provides a new legal framework for U.S. bishops as they prepare to adopt accountability measures next month to respond to the scandal there.

“People must know that bishops are at the service of the people,” said Archbishop Charles Scicluna, the Vatican’s longtime sex crimes prosecutor. “They are not above the law, and if they do wrong, they must be reported.”

The decree requires the world’s 415,000 Catholic priests and 660,000 nuns to tell church authorities when they learn or have “well-founded motives to believe” a cleric or sister has engaged in sexual abuse of a minor, sexual misconduct with an adult, possession of child pornography — or that a superior has covered up any of those crimes.

It doesn’t require them to report to police, however. The Vatican has long argued that different legal systems make a universal reporting law impossible, and that imposing one could endanger the church in places where Catholics are a persecuted minority. But the procedures do for the first time put into universal law that victims cannot be silenced, that clergy must obey civil reporting requirements where they live, and that their obligation to report to the church in no way interferes with that.

The global victims group Ending Clergy Abuse, or ECA, said the Vatican shouldn’t hide behind the argument that mandatory reporting to police is a problem in some countries.

“The church should establish the law for reporting and justify the exception,” said ECA’s Peter Iseley. “Instead, they are using the exception as a pretext for not reporting sexual abuse to civil authorities and to keep abuse secret.”

If implemented fully, though, the Vatican could well see an avalanche of abuse and cover-up reports. The decree can be applied retroactively, meaning priests and nuns are now required to report even old cases of sexual wrongdoing and cover-ups — and enjoy whistleblower protections for doing so.

Previously such reporting was left to the conscience of individual priests and nuns.

Canon lawyer Kurt Martens called the new law “revolutionary” by making sex abuse of minors and adults, as well as official cover-ups, subject to mandatory reporting.

“We owe gratitude to Pope Francis for this universal law of the Church, ensuring that a victim who wishes to tell his or her story cannot be silenced,” Martens tweeted.

Anne Barrett Doyle of BishopAccountability praised some of the provisions but said they weren’t enough, primarily because there were no sanctions envisaged for violations, and because the process remained entirely internal.

“Bishops watching bishops does not work,” she said.

While there are no punitive measures foreseen for noncompliance, bishops and religious superiors could be accused of cover-up or negligence if they fail to implement the provisions or retaliate against priests and nuns who make reports against them.

The law defines the crimes that must be reported as: performing sexual acts with a minor or vulnerable person; forcing an adult “by violence or threat or through abuse of authority, to perform or submit to sexual acts”; and the production, possession or distribution of child pornography. Cover-up is defined as “actions or omissions intended to interfere with or avoid” civil or canonical investigations.

Cardinal Marc Ouellet, head of the Vatican’s bishops’ office, said the inclusion of sex crimes involving adults was a clear reference to cases of sexual abuse of nuns and seminarians by their superiors — a scandal that has exploded recently following reports, including by The Associated Press and the Vatican’s own women’s magazine, of sisters being sexually assaulted by priests.

The pope mandated that victims reporting abuse must be welcomed, listened to and supported by the hierarchy, as well as offered spiritual, medical and psychological assistance.

The law says victims can’t be forced to keep quiet, even though the investigation itself is still conducted under pontifical secret. And in a novelty, the law requires that if victims request it, they must be told of the outcome of the investigation — again a response to complaints that victims are kept in the dark about how their claims were handled.

Victims and their advocates have long complained that bishops and religious superiors have escaped justice for having engaged in sexual misconduct themselves, or failed to protect their flocks from predator priests. Bishops and religious superiors are accountable only to the pope, and only a handful have ever been sanctioned or removed for sex abuse or cover-up, and usually only after particularly egregious misbehavior became public.

Last summer, the scandal over ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick epitomized the trend: McCarrick rose to the heights of the Catholic hierarchy even though he had credible allegations of sexual misconduct with adults against him that the Vatican had received. Francis defrocked McCarrick this year after a U.S. church investigation determined he sexually abused minors as well as adult seminarians.

The new procedures call for any claim of sexual misconduct or cover-up against a bishop, religious superior or Eastern Rite patriarch to be reported to the Holy See and the metropolitan bishop, who is a regular diocesan bishop also responsible for a broader geographic area than his dioceses alone.

Unless the metropolitan bishop finds the claim “manifestly unfounded,” he must immediately ask permission from the Vatican to open a preliminary investigation and must hear back from Rome within 30 days — a remarkably fast turnaround for the lethargic Holy See. The metropolitan bishop then has an initial 90 days to conduct the investigation, though extensions are possible.

The law makes clear he can use lay experts to help, a key provision that is already used in many dioceses. And it recommends that a special fund be set up to pay for the investigations, particularly in poorer parts of the world.

Once the investigation is over, the metropolitan sends the results to the Vatican for a decision on how to proceed.

The new law requires Vatican offices to share information throughout the process, since an untold number of cases have fallen through the cracks, thanks to the silo-like nature of the Holy See bureaucracy.

The procedures published Thursday are likely to form a key legal framework for U.S. bishops when they meet in Baltimore June 11-13 to adopt new accountability procedures, though it will certainly force them to scrap their existing proposals and make them conform to the new law.

The head of the U.S. conference, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, said the law was a “blessing” and that the conference was already working on how to implement it.

But the law is essentially a variation of a counterproposal to DiNardo’s planned measures made last year by Chicago Cardinal Blase Cupich, envisaging using the metropolitan bishop aided by lay experts to investigate bishops.

The law takes effect June 1 for an initial three years. Dioceses must establish the reporting system and confirm it is in place to the local Vatican embassy by June 1, 2020.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

VIDEO NEWS

National Politics

Congressman Soto: New Democrat Coalition Releases Technology Task Force Goals for the 116th Congress

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, the New Democrat Coalition Technology Task Force Co-Chairs Darren Soto, Sharice…

Step by step: Democrats play the long game against Trump

WASHINGTON (AP) — First came the sternly worded letters. Then the subpoenas. Now the votes…

Once again, Iraq caught up in tensions between US and Iran

BAGHDAD (AP) — When U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo sat down with Iraqi officials…

Trump Delays Imposing Tariffs on Auto Imports and Parts

WASHINGTON (AP) — Caught in a sprawling trade dispute with U.S. rival China, President Donald…

STATE & LOCAL POLITICS

Governor Ron DeSantis Announces Leadership and Delegation for Historic Business Development Mission to Israel

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Rcently, Governor Ron DeSantis announced the leadership and delegation for the Governor’s…

Gov. DeSantis: ‘Dumping’ migrants in Florida is unacceptable

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Florida’s governor plans to fight any federal plans to fly hundreds…

Governor Ron DeSantis Signs CS/HB 107: Wireless Communications While Driving

Sarasota, Fla. (FNN NEWS) – Today, Governor Ron DeSantis signed CS/HB 107: Wireless Communications While Driving. The law…

U.S. Reps Darren Soto and Brian Mast To Hold Press Conference on Congressional Services Act in Kissimmee May 20

KISSIMMEE, Fla. (FNN NEWS) – On Monday, May 20th at 9:30 am, U.S. Reps. Darren Soto and…

FNN SPORTS

  • Eustis-born country singer-songwriter Michael Ray. Photo credit: Jeff Nelson.
    DAYTONA BEACH (FNN SPORTS) - Michael Ray, Country Singer-Songwriter and Central Florida Native, to Perform Pre-Race Concert for 61st Annual Coke Zero Sugar 400 (Photo credit: Jeff Nelson)

MORE SPORTS NEWS

The Latest: Tiger on wrong side of cut at PGA Championship

FARMINGDALE, N.Y. (AP) — The Latest on the PGA Championship at Bethpage Black on Friday…

Only four players in 100 years have won six NFL titles

Tom Brady will soon slip on his sixth Super Bowl ring, and Herb Adderley is…

Jaguars Make Roster Moves Following Day Two of Rookie Minicamp

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (FNN SPORTS) – Source: Jacksonville Jaguars // Following the the team’s annual rookie minicamp,…

MATCH RECAP: Orlando City Falls 1-0 in Atlanta

ATLANTA (FNN SPORTS) - Source: Orlando City SC // Orlando City (3-5-3, 12 points) fell 1-0…

Portland Thorns FC Rout Orlando Pride 3-1 at Home

ORLANDO, Fla. (FNN SPORTS) - The Orlando Pride have an uphill battle this season. With…

Bucks beat Celtics 116-91 to advance to East final

MILWAUKEE (AP) — Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks found another gear after their first…

BUSINESS NEWS

  • FILE In this May 31, 2018, file photo a customer enters the Apple store in New York. Apple on Monday, March 18, 2019, unveiled a new iPad that's thinner and slightly larger than its current entry-level tablet. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)
    NEW YORK (AP) - Apple refreshes iPad lineup, with larger entry-level model. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)

MORE BUSINESS NEWS

Trump Delays Imposing Tariffs on Auto Imports and Parts

WASHINGTON (AP) — Caught in a sprawling trade dispute with U.S. rival China, President Donald…

US to Add 30,000 Seasonal Worker Visas as Soon as This Week

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Trump administration plans to allow 30,000 more foreign workers temporarily into…

Shark Tank Star Daymond John, DWTS's Lindsay Arnold, Joey Fatone to Host Runway to Hope 2019 Gala

ORLANDO, Fla. (FNN NEWS) - Runway to Hope co-founder Attorney Mark NeJame announced on Facebook Wednesday…

Bank of America Raising Hourly Minimum Wage to $20

NEW YORK (AP) — Bank of America plans to raise its starting pay to $20…

Pinterest sets sites on $1.5B in first public share offering

NEW YORK (AP) — Pinterest, among a gaggle of tech companies planning to go public…

Gone in 6 minutes: an Ethiopian Airlines jet’s final journey

From nearly the moment they roared down the runway and took off in their new…

ENTERTAINMENT NEWS

  • The cover art for Dionne Warwick's new album, "She's Back", released Friday, May 17, 2019. Image source: Kind Music/Entertainment One
    NEW YORK, N.Y. (FNN NEWS) - Pop Icon Dionne Warwick Releases New Album “She’s Back” (Image: Kind Music/Entertainment One)

MORE ENTERTAINMENT NEWS

[PHOTOS] 2019 Cannes Film Festival: ‘Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood’ Stars Electrify the Red Carpet

CANNES, France (FNN NEWS) - Quentin Tarantino's Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood premiered…

[PHOTOS] 2019 Cannes Film Festival: Model Winnie Harlow Wows on the Red Carpet

CANNES, France (FNN NEWS) - Game-changing model Winnie Harlow, who rocked the world several years ago…

Review: Egerton glitters in glossy, conventional ‘Rocketman’

Whatever you say about Dexter Fletcher’s glossy, glittering Elton John blinged-out biopic ”Rocketman ,” a shiny…

[PHOTOS] Bella Hadid Stuns for “Dolor Y Gloria” Premiere at Cannes Film Festival

CANNES, France (FNN NEWS) - Supermodel and Bvlgari ambassador Bella Hadid is no stranger to…

Pop Icon Dionne Warwick Releases New Album “She's Back”

NEW YORK, N.Y. (FNN NEWS) - Legendary Grammy Award-winner Dionne Warwick releases her new album, She’s Back (Kind Music/Entertainment…

Grumpy Cat, Who Entertained Millions Online, Dies at Age 7

MORRISTOWN, Ariz. (AP) — Grumpy Cat, whose sourpuss expression entertained millions on the internet and…

LIFESTYLE, TRAVEL & TOURISM

MORE LIFESTYLE NEWS

[PHOTOS] 2019 Cannes Film Festival: ‘Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood’ Stars Electrify the Red Carpet

CANNES, France (FNN NEWS) - Quentin Tarantino's Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood premiered…

[PHOTOS] 2019 Cannes Film Festival: Model Winnie Harlow Wows on the Red Carpet

CANNES, France (FNN NEWS) - Game-changing model Winnie Harlow, who rocked the world several years ago…

[PHOTOS] The Most Stunning Celebrity Looks from 2019 Cannes Film Festival’s Opening Night

CANNES, France (FNN NEWS) – Stunning celebrity fashion filled the red carpet on Opening Night…

Governor Ron DeSantis, Gary Sinise and Westgate Resorts Honor Thousands of Military Families

KISSIMMEE, Fla. (FNN NEWS) - Westgate Resorts, Gary Sinise and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis hosted thousands of military families in Kissimmee…

Expedia Unpacks the Best Time to Book, Cheap Places to Visit, and Everything Else You Need to Know About Summer 2019

BELLEVUE, Wash. (FNN NEWS) - Searches for "summer 2019" have been on the rise for the…

3 black women win Miss USA, Miss Teen USA and Miss America

NEW YORK (AP) — When Cheslie Kryst won the Miss USA crown, it marked more…