Vatican’s new guidance on sexual abuse investigations emphasizes involving police

A long-anticipated Vatican manual on investigations of possible sexual abuse directs bishops to report all such allegations to police, even in cases where they are not legally obligated to do so.

Under the Catholic Church’s new policies, “even in cases where there is no explicit legal obligation to do so, the ecclesiastical authorities should make a report to the competent civil authorities if this is considered necessary to protect the person involved or other minors from the danger of further criminal acts.”

The manual, which is not legally binding, also requires clergy to obey “legitimate” subpoena requests and directs against outright dismissal of anonymous allegations or those that fall outside the statue of limitations without further investigation, The Associated Press reported. Allegations should only be dismissed out of hand if a bishop determines “manifest impossibility,” such as the accused being elsewhere at the time of the allegation.

It also outlines “boundary violations” that are considered abuse even if they do not involve outright sexual assault, including exhibitionism, production of pornography and “conversations and/or propositions of a sexual nature.”

Anne Barrett Doyle, who co-founded the abuse survivor resource center BishopAccountability, said the manual was “incrementally better” than previous Vatican policies, but added “we’re past the point of ‘should.’”

“There is nothing stopping the pope from ordering bishops and religious superiors [to report] all allegations to civil authorities” except in cases where it could compromise the safety of victims, she told the AP.

Doyle added that a meaningful solution would involve a “zero tolerance” policy that permanently removes from public ministry any abusive clerics and any leaders involved in enabling them.

“That will be progress. That will be the reform that is needed,” she said.

Tags Catholic Church Catholic sexual abuse scandal Sexual abuse The Vatican Vatican
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