Vatican to bishops: Report sex abuse
VATICAN CITY (AP) - The Vatican on Monday made clear for the first time that bishops and other church officials should report clerical sex abuse to police if required by law. But the policy failed to satisfy victims who charge that the church deliberately hid abuse for decades.
Victims, government inquiries and grand juries have all charged that the Catholic Church created what amounted to a conspiracy to cover up abuse by keeping allegations that priests raped and molested children secret and not reporting them to civil authorities.
The Vatican has insisted that it has long been the Catholic Church's policy for bishops, like all Christians, to obey civil reporting laws. In a new guide for lay readers posted on its Web site, the Vatican explicitly spells out such a policy.
"Civil law concerning reporting of crimes to the appropriate authorities should always be followed," the Vatican guidelines said.
That phrase was not included in a draft of the guidelines obtained Friday by The Associated Press. The rest of the guidelines follow previously known and public procedures for handling canonical investigations and trials of priests suspected of abuse.
The Vatican offered no explanation for the addition.
Victims were not impressed.
"Let's keep this in perspective: it's one sentence and it's virtually nothing unless and until we see tangible signs that bishops are responding," said Joelle Casteix, western regional director for SNAP, the Survivors Network for Those Abused by Priests, the main victims' group in the U.S. "One sentence can't immediately reverse centuries of self-serving secrecy."
She said if the Vatican truly wanted to change course "it would be far more effective to fire or demote bishops who have clearly endangered kids and enabled abuse and hid crimes, than to add one sentence to a policy that is rarely followed with consistency."
None of the core public Vatican documents to be applied in cases of abuse direct bishops to report cases to police. Nor does canon law make such an explicit requirement.