Vatican prosecutor: Asking bishops to report abusive priests “onerous”

In an interview with The Tablet, Charles Scicluna (whose official title is Promoter of Justice at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith), described “Anglo-Saxon” legal requirements for bishops to report rape by their underlings “onerous.” He also said that in countries where such obligations are not enforced, bishops should not alert authorities, and that victims are ultimately responsible for reporting their own abuse.

GC: A recurring accusation made against the ecclesiastical hierarchy is that of not reporting to the civil authorities when crimes of paedophilia come to their attention.

CS: In some countries with an Anglo-Saxon legal culture, but also in France, the bishops – if they become aware of crimes committed by their priests outside the sacramental seal of Confession – are obliged to report them to the judicial authorities. We’re dealing with an onerous duty because these bishops are forced to make a gesture comparable to that of a parent who denounces his or her own son. Nonetheless, our instruction in these cases is to respect the law.

GC: And what about countries where bishops do not have this legal obligation?

CS: In these cases we do not force bishops to denounce their own priests, but encourage them to contact the victims and invite them to denounce the priests by whom they became victims. Furthermore, we invite the bishops to give all spiritual – and not only spiritual – assistance to these victims. In a recent case concerning a priest condemned by a civil tribunal in Italy, it was precisely this Congregation that suggested to the accusers, who had turned to us for a canonical trial, that they also go to the civil authorities, in the interest of the victims and in order to avoid other crimes.

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