Once again the Catholic Church has affirmed that its priorities are to protect the interests of the institution and not the victims of pedophile priests.
It was recently reported in the Catholic news website, Crux, that during a presentation for newly appointed bishops, French Monsignor Tony Anatrella told newly ordained bishops that they are not obligated to report sexual abuse to authorities, stating the responsibility to report the abuse falls on the victims and their families.
It was shocking and disturbing to hear, especially after the Vatican under Pope Francis has often spoken of “zero tolerance” in regards to dealing with sexual abuse by priests, yet their official policies appear to still relieve bishops of any responsibility.
SNAP spokesperson Barbara Dorris was appalled and in her response statement spoke of how, “No mention was made that you should call the police when a crime is reported to you and we found that deeply disturbing.” Dorris went on to point out that since 2002, the church has promised transparency, yet consistently failed to deliver. The revelation of Anatrella’s instruction to new bishops only confirms that the safety of children is still not their top priority.
I have long advocated that if the Catholic Church is ever to eradicate pedophile priests from its ranks, the bishops must be held accountable. The failure of bishops to report suspected and known pedophiles and turn them over to police is one of the main reasons that the church’s abuse scandal continues. For decades it has been unofficial policy for bishops to move rapists from parish to parish rather than hand them over to law enforcement. Bishops were allowed and encouraged to abdicate any moral and ethical responsibility and not report suspected abuse to civil authorities in order to protect the reputation of the church.
This latest revelation again basically instructs the bishops that they don’t have to do anything; it is up to the families or the victims to go to the police.
The Catholic Church has shown that they will not change until they are forced to change. Mandatory reporting laws everywhere need to be expanded to include people who work for religious institutions, and this should especially include Catholic Bishops. Change will only come when the church is forced to put the welfare of children first.