Sometimes one has to wonder what planet top Vatican officials are from. They surely seem utterly detached from reality and what most would consider basic morality and decency. With the movie Spotlight garnering increased attention and set to get even more during the Academy Awards ceremony, the official Vatican training program for newly appointed Catholic bishops informs the new appointees that they have NO obligation to report sexual abuse of minors to local police authorities. That's right, no obligations to report crimes against children. The Church prefers to deal with the problem internally. As Spotlight has so wonderfully demonstrated, the Church's track record on self-discipline and protecting children and youth is nothing less than abysmal. The Guardian looks at this shocking Vatican position. Here are highlights:
The Catholic church 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, which was 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. . . . . Details of the Catholic church’s policy were first reported in a column by a veteran Vatican journalist, John Allen, associate editor of the Catholic news site, Cruxnow.com.
Allen noted that a special commission created by Pope Francis, the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, had appeared to play no role in the training programme, even though it is supposed to be developing “best practices” to prevent and deal with clerical abuse.
Indeed, a church official familiar with the commission on abuse 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”. The official said the committee would be involved in future training efforts.
The current guidelines written by Anatrella make only passing references to prevention policies. The French monsignor is best known for championing views on “gender theory”, the controversial belief that increasing acceptance of homosexuality in western countries is creating “serious problems” for children who are being exposed to “radical notions of sexual orientation”. He did not return a request for comment.
The guidelines reflect Anatrella’s views on homosexuality. They also downplay the seriousness of the Catholic church’s legacy of systemic child abuse, which some victims’ right groups say continues to be a problem today. . . . . the training guide emphasises statistics that show the vast majority of sexual assaults against children are committed within the family and by friends and neighbours, not other authority figures.
Pope Francis has called for the church to exhibit “zero tolerance” of sexual abuse of minors . . . . . He said in a 2012 interview – when he was still a cardinal – that he was once called by a bishop asking him for advice on how to deal with an allegation of sex abuse. Cardinal Bergoglio – as he was then known – allegedly told the bishop to take away the priests’ licences and begin a canonical trial that would deal with the matter internally.
SNAP, a US-based advocacy group for abuse victims that has been very critical of Pope Francis on the issue, said the news outlined in John Allen’s Crux article proved that the church had not substantially changed.
“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 – like this disclosure by Allen – emerges,” the group said in a statement.
The news comes just days after the abuse commission forced one of two abuse survivors who had personally been appointed by Pope Francis to leave the committee following a vote of no confidence. Peter Saunders, a British abuse survivor and vocal critic of the church’s alleged lack of action on abuse, said he was blind-sided by the vote.
The Vatican declined to comment.
I continue to baffled as to how good and moral individuals can continue to remain in the Church, must less continue to finance such a morally bankrupt institution.