Bring in mandatory reporting for abuse, Varadkar tells church

Vatican should adopt ‘best practice’ on abuse reporting to authorities, Taoiseach says

 Taoiseach Leo Varadkar  at The Islamic Cultural Centre of Ireland (ICCI) where he attended the  the annual Islamic Festival of ‘Eid ul Adha’. Photograph: Collins

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar at The Islamic Cultural Centre of Ireland (ICCI) where he attended the the annual Islamic Festival of ‘Eid ul Adha’. Photograph: Collins

 

The Catholic Church should introduce mandatory reporting for clerical sex abuse, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said.

Speaking on Tuesday, Mr Varadkar said Pope Francis’ letter on Monday apologising to the victims of clerical abuse needed to “be followed up by actions”.

“Among the things that we have done in Ireland is to bring in mandatory reporting. As of last year it is mandatory for people to report child sex abuse, or sex abuse if they are aware of that,” he said.

“Perhaps that is something the church and other institutions might consider implementing? Just because it is not the law in every country does not mean it is not the right thing to do,” Mr Varadkar said.

The church should examine adopting the “best practice” standard as an institution, when it came to dealing with child sex abuse, he said.

Under Irish mandatory reporting legislation, “mandated persons”, such as medical professionals, youth workers, members of the clergy, and teachers, have a legal responsibility to report suspected child abuse to authorities.

Ireland also did not have a statute of limitations for criminal cases related to child sexual abuse, Mr Varadkar said.

‘Dark legacy’

“A lot of institutions have a dark legacy of treating children and women, and those most vulnerable very badly, and it’s not just the Catholic Church: the State doesn’t have a very good record in that regard either,” Mr Varadkar said.

Mr Varadkar will hold a “short meeting” with the pope on Saturday, he said, but would not comment on whether he would raise the proposal of mandatory abuse reporting for the church.

Mr Varadkar was speaking to media following a visit to the Islamic Cultural Centre of Ireland, in Clonskeagh, south Dublin. The Taoiseach was visiting the mosque to mark the start of the Eid al-Adha festival.

In an open letter on Monday Pope Francis said the Catholic Church had shown “no care for the little ones” and that “no effort to beg pardon and to seek to repair the harm done will ever be sufficient”.

The letter came after a damning Pennsylvania grand jury report last week, which found that more than 1,000 children in six dioceses there had been molested by 300 Catholic priests over the past 70 years.

Mr Varadkar said the letter from Pope Francis was “very welcome,” and the pontiff had “said all the right things.”

“I think as is always the case words need to be followed up by actions, I think that is what people need to see in the period ahead, to restore trust and restore confidence in the Church,” he said.

World Meeting of Families

The pope is due to arrive in Ireland on Saturday for a two-day visit, which will coincide with the World Meeting of Families festival in Dublin. The visit is estimated to cost €32 million, of which the church has agreed to raise €20 million.

Defending the cost of the Papal visit, Mr Varadkar said the spending was “appropriate.” The exact cost of the visit would not be known until afterwards, he said.

“The reason why that money is being spent is not for Pope Francis himself, but for the 600,000 to 700,000 people who are going to attend events all over the country. The reason why we are spending that money is for the Irish people, for their health and safety, and their security,” he said.

The visit would be one of the biggest events in terms of public participation in 40 years, “so that is why the costs are so high,” Mr Varadkar said.