Can you believe this? Apparently Roman Catholic bishops are being told that they don’t have to report cases of clergy sexually abusing children, and that only victims or their families should make the decision to report abuse to police.
This has come from training guidelines 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.
Pope Francis is already under the spotlight on this issue. He said in a 2012 interview – when he was still a cardinal – that he was once called by a bishop asking him for advice on how to deal with an allegation of sex abuse. Cardinal Bergoglio – as he was then known – allegedly told the bishop to begin a canonical trial that would deal with the matter internally rather than go to the police and have the priest dealt with in the courts. This has been the Roman Catholic approach for a long time – “deal with the matter internally” and move the abuser to a different area, where he might carry on sexually abusing children.
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”. But that does not match up to what actually happens. And these training guidelines make it clear that a bishop should address such allegations internally, not through the police and the courts. These mixed messages obviously intend for the Church to protect their own from due process of the law. This is Pope Francis’ preferred process; and who is going to argue with him?
To me, the message is garbled but still goes to protect paedophile priests rather than abused children. When priests abuse children, the bishops should shoulder a great deal of responsibility. But the guidelines say otherwise. I would warn Roman Catholic parents to be very careful when putting their children in potential harm’s way. If it comes to the crunch, the Catholic church will protect the clergy, not the children.