Pope mandates annual audit on each country’s abuse protection measures


Pope Francis has asked for an annual audit providing a “reliable account on what is presently being done and what needs to change” to protect children and vulnerable adults from predator clergy.

Each country will contribute to the audit evaluating how national Catholic Churches are implementing such measures.

“Without more transparency the faithful will continue to lose trust,” he says.

“Abuse in any form is unacceptable.

“This [annual] report will … provide a clear audit of our progress in this effort.

“Without that progress, the faithful will continue to lose trust in their pastors, and preaching and witnessing to the Gospel will become increasingly difficult,” he says.

The pope made the request for the audit at a meeting with the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, which was established in 2014 to promote best practices and a culture of safeguarding worldwide.

Although to date the Commission has had a few difficulties, the Vatican’s newly updated constitution placed it in the doctrinal department which rules on abuse cases.

The worldwide sexual abuse crisis has seen the Church suffer massive damage to its credibility and billions of dollars in settlements, with some dioceses declaring bankruptcy.

The Commission’s role

The Commission acts in an advisory capacity. It is made up mostly of lay people, including clergy sexual abuse survivors such as Juan Carlos Cruz of Chile, one of the most vocal defenders of abuse victims.

Father Andrew Small, its secretary, says the annual audit would detail the strength of guidelines in individual countries, dioceses, national bishops conferences and regional bishops conferences.

The Commission’s job is to “supervise, be vigilant, oversee, encourage and report back,” he says.

Francis has promised the Commission autonomy with a direct reporting line to him.

Part of the mandate is to determine if dioceses are conforming to a 2019 papal directive ordering “public, stable and easily accessible systems for submission” of reports of sexual abuse.

Some countries, such as the United States, established procedures sometimes known as “listening centres”, even before the 2019 directive.

Others, particularly in the developing world, have been slow to conform.

“Sexual abuse in the Church has been going on for far too long and we still have a long way to go,” Cruz says.

“The Commission will help and also oversee that bishops conferences around the world implement these offices where survivors can go to receive attention, receive the care that they need and receive some kind of explanation where their cases are.

“Not knowing the status of a complaint can be incredibly re-traumatising and re-victimising for survivors.”



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