Belfast Telegraph

Monday 28 July 2014

Vatican's paedophile guidelines spark fury among sex abuse victims

Victims of paedophile priests reacted with fury yesterday after new guidelines from the Vatican insisted bishops, rather than police, should deal with child abuse cases in the first instance.

A document drawn up by Cardinal William Levada, the head of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, concludes that the responsibility for dealing with child abuse cases in the Church “belongs in the first place to bishops”.

In the past there have been repeated accusations of cover-ups by the Church and claims that bishops have shielded child abusers.

The Vatican claimed that the document, to be circulated to clergy worldwide, was “an important new step” to cleanse the Church of recurring child abuse scandals and urged bishops to co-operate with police in reporting priests who rape and molest children.

The guidelines are aimed at |“facilitating the correct application” of rules Pope Benedict XVI issued last year on handling abuse.

Besides repeating that suspected crimes should be reported to police, it called on bishops to “investigate every allegation of sexual abuse of a minor by a cleric”.

It also made distribution of child pornography a crime in canon law.

Maeve Lewis of the One in Four survivors' support group said the guidelines were “dangerously flawed” and that bishops had little expertise in recognising child abuse. “It is not acceptable that reporting an allegation is at the discretion of a bishop,” she said.

“The Vatican has missed an opportunity to deal definitively with the sex abuse scandal and to protect children.”

There was no immediate reaction from Irish Church leaders Cardinal Sean Brady and Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin. But the Bishop of Dromore, John McAreavey, said he welcomed the initiative.

“In the Irish Church we have an independent and high quality regulatory agency — the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church — which supports dioceses, congregations and missionary societies,” he said.

“The publication underscores the Church’s commitment to addressing the very serious issue of child abuse,” Bishop McAreavey added

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