Kerala

The Vatican tells bishops to report clerical abuse of minors to police

Pope Francis  

Pope Francis has told bishops across the world to report sexual abuse of minors by clerics to the local police and not to ignore even anonymous or doubtful claims.

In its July 16 vademecum (handbook or guide), the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith of the Catholic Church said: “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 guideline is meant to help dioceses, institutes of consecrated life and societies of apostolic life, episcopal conferences, and other ecclesiastical establishments and institutions “to better understand and implement the requirements of justice regarding a delictum gravius (grave wrong) that constitutes for the whole Church a profound and painful wound that cries out for healing”, the Vademecum said.

However, this is a guideline and not part of the Canon law. “While not issuing new norms or altering current canonical legislation, this manual seeks to clarify the various stages of the procedures involved. Its use is to be encouraged, since a standardised praxis will contribute to a better administration of justice.”

“We are studying the document, which will be translated into Malayalam too for its wider study and discussions,” said Fr. Varghese Vallikkatt, deputy secretary general of the Kerala Catholic Bishops Council (KCBC), the apex body of the hierarchy in Kerala.

He said the document would be discussed thoroughly and its recommendations implemented. The Syro-Malabar Church had already constituted ‘safe environment’ committees across its dioceses to prevent and, if needed, to investigate any sexual abuse, he pointed out.

The laity has always demanded such transparency, but bishops, priests, and sometimes even nuns have combined to hide the truth from the civil authorities and the public, said Riju Kanjukkaran, a member of Ernakulam-Angamaly diocese and a vocal advocate for reforms in the Syro-Malabar Church.

Sister Anupama, who joined a public protest in September 2018 demanding the arrest of Bishop Franco Mulakkal of the Jalandhar diocese of the Catholic Church for alleged sexual offences, expressed hope that Pope Francis’s call would be heeded by the Church hierarchy.

Pope Francis has a great human face but wait and watch if bishops will follow his directions, said Sister Lucy Kalapurakkal, who was among those publicly seeking the arrest of Bishop Mulakkal.

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Printable version | Mar 4, 2021 9:26:40 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/kerala/the-vatican-tells-bishops-to-report-clerical-abuse-of-minors-to-police/article32126132.ece

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