Vatican Unveils New Legislation on Sexual Abuse, SNAP Responds
The Vatican has unveiled new reporting requirements for all church personnel, but despite being new, these reporting requirements simply feel like more of the same.
The new “mandatory reporting provision” requires the “immediate reporting” of allegations of sexual abuse, which is a good thing. Unfortunately, the provision stipulates that those reports should be made to internal Vatican structures and offices, not independent, secular law enforcement officials.
Decades of revelations, investigations, and reports on the abuse scandal have shown that the Church cannot police itself. Continuing to double down on internal reporting will not protect children or vulnerable adults. Instead of encouraging Church officials to report to each other, the Pope should instead be telling Church staff to make reports to local police and prosecutors first.
But there are good things in these new policies as well. For one, we are glad to see that the Church is acknowledging the abuse of vulnerable adults. Abuse at any age is devastating and there is no doubt that the abuse of adults is more widespread than can be imagined.
We are also glad to see the inclusion of requirements for background checks and training on sexual abuse prevention, as well as the provisions aimed at ensuring that victims and whistle blowers do not face retaliation. These are positive steps forward.
But policy change on paper is meaningless unless actions are also taken in real life. If children are to be safer, we need to set a higher bar and demand reform that makes a real difference. The Pope can start by requiring personnel to make reports to independent law enforcement officials. In the interim, as we wait to see the effects of these changes, we hope that victims, witnesses and whistle blowers will continue to put their faith in the secular law enforcement system when it comes to reporting allegations of sexual abuse.
(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)