An Italian cardinal has defended national guidelines exempting Italian bishops from having to report claims of abuse by clergy to police.
Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, president of the Italian bishops’ conference, said Italian law does not require it and victims may not want it.
The guidelines, published in revised form in late March, were called for by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
In 2010, the Vatican instructed bishops to report abuse to police, but only where required by law.
The Italian guidelines cite a 1985 agreement between the Vatican and Italy that stated that clergy aren’t obliged to tell magistrates about information obtained through their religious ministry.
But the guidelines remind bishops they have a moral duty to contribute to the common good.
Cardinal Bagnasco argued the guidelines did not represent a “no” to mandatory reporting; rather they were the expression of concern for the victims’ right to privacy.
“We priests have to be very careful to respect the privacy, discretion and sense of reserve [of victims], we’ve got to be sensitive to the trauma of victims who do not want to be thrust into the public eye . . . ,” he said.
Cardinal Bagnasco said the Church’s moral obligation towards victims counts for much more than its juridical obligations.
The abuse survivors group SNAP were highly critical of the Italian guidelines.
They said: “The stunning, depressing and irresponsible contradiction between what Vatican officials say about abuse and do about abuse continues.”
They also criticised Pope Francis for not amending the Vatican requirement, which “give Italian bishops permission to ignore or conceal the rape of boys or girls”, they charged.
Victims’ lobby groups argue that, while the right of victims and their families to privacy and discretion is justified, a primary concern must be to ensure no existing sex offender gets to abuse more children in future because he has not been reported to state authorities.
News category: World.