Archbishop says all allegations of clerical abuse must be reported

Recent Vatican document said it is ‘not necessarily’ bishop’s duty to report abuse claims

 

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin has said all allegations of clerical abuse in Ireland must be reported to gardaí, responding to a new Vatican document saying bishops had discretion on reporting abuse to authorities.

“The norms in Ireland are very clear – all allegations must and are reported to the gardaí,” he said.

He added that co-operation with the gardaí has been very productive from the perspective of the Archdiocese.

“Gardaí have the ability and the expertise to investigate matters that diocesan personnel would not.

“Over the years, we have established very good working relationships with the Gardai which has been helpful to both sides.”

Earlier on Thursday the One in Four organisation expressed shock at the implications of the new Vatican document.

Maeve Lewis, executive director of One in Four, said she was shocked at the implication that bishops had discretion whether or not to report incidents of clerical abuse to the civil authorities.

The recently released guidelines for new bishops states it is “not necessarily” their duty to report claims of clerical abuse in states where reporting was obligatory.

The guidelines did state that clergy must be aware of laws in the area they minister.

She told Newstalk Radio: “Given the history in this country we all know the dangers and what sort of culture that can create and the dangers to vulnerable children. It must be unbelievable to people like Bishop Diarmuid Martin who showed such leadership on this issue in this country.

“In Ireland, and the UK, mandatory reporting of sexual abuse of children is in place so a bishop would be in breach of the law if he did not report and subject to severe penalties”.

She was also concerned for the world wide church particularly in developing countries where mandatory reporting is not in place and where the church is growing and where the law on reporting clerical abuse is underdeveloped.

The 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. The Vatican released the guidelines - which are part of a broader training programme for newly named bishops - at a press conference earlier this month and is now seeking feedback.

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.

Mr 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 Mr 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 Mr 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.

While acknowledging that “the church has been particularly affected by sexual crimes committed against children”, 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.

The training course began in 2001 and has been taken by about 30 per cent of Catholic prelates. The guidelines on child abuse was presented to new bishops last September in the annual training course organised by the Congregation for Bishops, Mr Allen noted.

Pope Francis has called for the church to exhibit “zero tolerance” of sexual abuse of minors or vulnerable adults by clergy and that “everything possible must be done to rid the church of the scourge of the sexual abuse”.