Pope Francis Issues New Reporting Laws, SNAP Responds

A lack of policies or procedures has never been the main problem in the clergy sex abuse scandal. Rather, it has been a lack of accountability for hierarchs who conceal sex crimes and a deficit of courage and willingness to take immediate, decisive action on those who have enabled those crimes to occur.

Mandated reporting is a good thing. Yet while this new law will compel priests and nuns to report abuse, it requires them to do so internally, to the very Church structures and offices that have been receiving and routing allegations of abuse for years. We would have been far more impressed if this new law required church officials to report to police and prosecutors instead.Oversight from external, secular authorities will better protect children and deter cover-ups.

It is notable that this new law contains whistleblower protections for those who come forward. But we can only wonder if Church officials will simply be able to retaliate against whistleblowers in different ways, as we have seen in the recent case of Fr. John Gallagher.

While we remain skeptical of this new law, we recognize some good things within it. For example, we are glad that the Vatican is specifically recognizing the plight of vulnerable adults by acknowledging “the abuse of authority,” regardless of a victim’s age. We are also glad that the Vatican has pledged to move quickly on internal investigations.

But ultimately, the one thing that survivors and advocates have been asking for is accountability for the Church hierarchy. Yet again, the Vatican has made a grand pronouncement on the issue of clergy abuse while failing to establish penalties for hierarchs involved in cover-ups or creating an avenue to safely report the egregious conduct of bishops and cardinals. 

Since the famous Dallas Charter was published in 2002, Church officials have consistently talked about the reforms they have made. But those reforms have almost unilaterally applied to priests and nuns. While identifying and removing abusers is important to prevent future crimes, it is equally important to punish those who enabled the abuse in the first place.

Look no further than Cardinal George Pell, who was convicted in a court of law for the rape of two young boys. Despite that conviction, the Vatican has yet to take any punitive action. If the Pope wanted to send the message that he was taking sex crimes seriously, he would defrock the Cardinal immediately. Instead, two months have passed since the conviction and he remains a Cardinal.

Every single Pope has had the power to deter cover-ups and protect children by ousting bad hierarchs. Until prelates are demoted or defrocked for their roles in minimizing or ignoring sex crimes, nothing will change.

CONTACT: Tim Lennon, SNAP President (tlennon@snapnetwork.org, 415-312-5820) Zach Hiner, Executive Director (zhiner@snapnetwork.org, 517-974-9009)

(SNAP, the Survivors Network, has been providing support for victims of sexual abuse in institutional settings for 30 years. We have more than 25,000 survivors and supporters in our network. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)


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  • Richard Windmann
    commented 2019-05-13 12:46:57 -0500
    There is no canon law in the United States of America. There is only “Canon Law” inside the walls of the Vatican. We should immediately stop recognizing it as such. And we should start demanding that our own law makers hold them accountable. Pronto, ASAP, do it now. Because until you do, the Church is the LAW, not you.
  • Kevin Walters
    commented 2019-05-11 04:26:44 -0500
    Sadly the underlying problem remains that is lack of Trust, as a fundamental shift of culture has not as yet taken place. Rather we are left with a self-serving closed shop, that is not prepared to show its vulnerability/transparency, on the worldly plane before the faithful.

    This lack of vulnerability emanates from spiritual dishonest before God in effect the leadership are self-serving rather than God serving. This self-serving by of all the bishops of the church has revealed itself, in them, in having colluded with the <b>ongoing</b> breaking of the Second Commandment. <i><b>“Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain"</b></i>

    The gravity of this sin when it is fully acknowledge will create a fundamental shift of culture, as they the bishops will have to face the full reality of a priesthood that served itself it before God. As actual words attributed to God by the Church that contain a request which the Church has endorsed and acted upon, must not be misused, distorted or twisted in ways that impugn the character of God, and then be used by man for his own ends, to do so, would be to say that God was made for man, not man for God, in effect the elite within the Church would be conspiring with the Devil.

    To fully understand what I am saying please consider continuing via the link.

    http://www.catholicethos.net/errors-amoris-laetitia/#comment-230

    kevin your brother
    In Christ
  • Brian Toale
    commented 2019-05-09 14:56:03 -0500
    This is long overdue, but still only a self-protecting bandaid. The reports should be to the civil authorities, not to the Church itself. But let’s not forget (which the Church hierarchy hopes we will) that the crime of covering up past abuse is still being committed on a daily basis by those who are in positions of power. How can they be true leaders while they are always afraid that the next revelation will be the one that brings them down? Confession is good for the soul, or so they tell us. Half measures will avail them nothing.

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