May 16, 2011

Vatican issues sexual abuse guidelines

by Jan Harris

The Vatican has issued guidelines designed to improve the way sexual abuse allegations are handled by bishops around the world.

The Roman Catholic Church has been rocked by allegations of sexual abuse by Catholic priests since the 1980s, with those in positions of authority in the church facing much criticism for their failure to protect children.

The Vatican has now told bishops to make the prevention of sexual abuse a priority.

It has ordered them to put clear procedures in place by next year and called on them to investigate all allegations of sexual abuse, with ‘credible’ cases being passed to the Vatican to be reviewed.

Bishops are also ordered to cooperate fully with civil law.

However the guidelines have failed to impress victims’ rights groups, including the US-based ‘Survivors’ Network for Those Abused by Priests’ which is reported in the New York Times as saying:

“There’s no enforcement here. There are no penalties for bishops who don’t come up with guidelines or who violate their own guidelines.”

“Until that happens — until top church officials who hide and enable abuse are severely disciplined — top church officials will continue to hide and enable abuse.”

Last week a leading UK academic, Dr Kevin Egan, said that loyalty to the Pope must never stand in the way of the enforcement of British law.

Speaking at the annual Gradwell Lecture in Liverpool, Dr Egan said that the sexual abuse crisis had altered the relationship between priests and bishops, with bishops’ responsibility now lying with the truth and law, rather than with their oath of loyalty to the papacy.

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