PRIESTS suspected of child-abuse sex crimes should be turned over to the authorities and face legal action, the Vatican says in a letter to bishops on anti-pedophilia guidelines.
The letter laid out provisional procedures against priest sex-abuse crimes and gave bishops a year to deliberate the proposals following a scandal that has spread across the globe and struck the Catholic Church at its core.
“Sex abuse of minors is not just a canonical delict but also a crime prosecuted by civil law … (and) the prescriptions of civil law regarding the reporting of such crimes to the designated authority should always be followed,” said the letter, released today.
“The guidelines … seek to protect minors and to help victims in finding assistance and reconciliation.”
The letter said it was up to bishops to notify the authorities in the case of a suspected pedophile priest.
The letter was published in English, French, German, Italian, Polish and Spanish, and urged bishops to ensure the Church gives “spiritual and psychological assistance” to victims and their families.
But the letter was dismissed before publication by a US victims’ group, Survivors’ Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), which called for internationally-binding policies instead of guidelines.
“We are very disappointed,” said David Clohessy of SNAP, adding that the guidelines were “belated and very grudging”.
“As an absolute minimum there should be a global no-tolerance policy. Fundamentally, the reason that Church officials ignore, conceal and mishandle sex crimes is because they can.”
The Vatican has come under severe pressure in recent years over pedophilia and the scandal of child-abuser priests peaked last year with a string of high-profile revelations in Belgium, Germany and Ireland.
The Holy See has been accused of being slow to out perverse priests.
Last month, Amnesty International said the Vatican was still failing to meet its international obligations to protect children.