Top Vatican expert on sexual abuse explains new Catholic guidelines
Mons. Charles Scicluna, the Justice Promoter in the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) and its top expert on clerical sexual abuse issues, gave the following interview to Reuters Television on Monday to explain the Roman Catholic Church’s new guidelines for dealing with priests accused of molesting children. The Vatican told bishops around the world earlier on Monday that they must make it a global priority to root out sexual abuse and cooperate with civil authorities to end the scandals that have tarnished the Roman Catholic Church’s image around the world.
Scicluna, who hails from Malta, has been a key contributor to Vatican documents on sexual abuse.
WHAT DOES THIS LETTER INTEND TO DO?
“The circular letter intends to help individual bishops around the world to develop guidelines on how to process cases of sexual abuse of minors by clerics, by priests, and also to produce a set of best practice guidelines which would ensure the creation of safe environments for young people in the Church. It’s intended to help and to strengthen the resolve of bishops in responding adequately to the cases they have in their local situations.”
WHAT KIND OF STANDARDS IS THIS TRYING TO SET?
“It talks about formation of communities and clerics, the ability to recognise the signs of abuse — because that’s the first point in adequately responding to abuse — but also future formation of priests, the respect of boundaries, and also information that would insure and ensure that priests have the necessary skills to lead celibate lives, as they should.”
WHAT DOES IT SAY ABOUT HOW LOCAL CHURCHES SHOULD DEAL WITH CIVIL AUTHORITIES?
“Local Churches have to take account and take into consideration the civil law which is in their own countries. They have to follow any laws which specifically concern reporting cases to the civil authorities. They have to follow the civil law in their country.”
IS THERE ANY CONFLICT BETWEEN CHURCH AND CIVIL LAW?
“There is no conflict between Church and civil law to the extent that the civil legislation considers sex abuse of a minor a crime and asks that people are brought to justice and that they are assured a fair trial.”
THIS SEEMS TO BE SENDING A CLEAR SIGNAL TO BISHOPS THAT THEY ARE ULTIMATELY RESPONSIBLE FOR WHAT GOES ON IN THEIR DIOCESE. IS THAT RIGHT?
“In any discernment of a case, in any decision taken on a case, the bishop has an important role to play. He is responsible for decisions concerning his priests. He has the duty to consult experts in the field and has to listen to his community, but the responsibility of the ultimate decisions about what happens to his priests and to his people concerning child protection remains with him, with the bishop.”
IS THE CIRCULAR LETTTER SAYING THIS IS A TOP PRIORITY?
“The circular letter signed by Cardinal Leveda and Archbishop Ladaria makes the important point that the protection of minors is a paramount consideration when you are talking about the common good of the Church. There is no common good of the Church or of the institution or of the People of God which is different from the protection of minors and care taken to any victims.”
HOW DO YOU RESPOND TO CRITICS WHO SAY THIS IS TOO LITTLE, TO LATE?
“This is a long-term planning procedure. It has taken some time for the Church to recognise that there have to be clear guidelines. It is a good day for people who expect that the Church gives the good example, even when it comes to the protection of minors.”