The Problem with the Chilean Conduct Guidelines

Yesterday, the Catholic Church in Chile formally apologized for a set of published conduct guidelines for priests on interacting with children. Not only were the guidelines themselves tone-deaf at best – for example, by explaining that priests should not take naked pictures of children because “they could be misinterpreted” – but they were written and signed by Cardinal Ricardo Ezzati, a man who is under investigation by Chilean prosecutors for his role in covering up sexual abuse.

We’re glad these guidelines were published, if only because they gave a window into the warped thinking that has allowed the abuse scandal in Chile to foment for years. By failing to even mention child sexual abuse, the very problem these guidelines are meant to prevent, the authors show that they are incapable of fully grasping the depth of the problem in the Chilean church.

It is a good thing that changes are finally happening thanks to the work of Chilean survivors and their government, but these guidelines are not the right step for the church to take. In addition to fully cooperating with independent investigators, we believe the church should hire outside experts in the field of child abuse prevention in order to create a true system of child protection. Based on these published guidelines, it is clear that church officials cannot do so alone.

(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

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