Clergy aren’t obliged to tell magistrates

A week ago the Italian Bishops’ Conference published guidance saying that they don’t have to report suspected sexual abuse of children to the police.

Fair enough. They agreed it among themselves, so it’s none of anyone else’s business, right? That’s democracy.

The Italian Bishops’ Conference said the guidelines published Friday reflected suggestions from the Vatican’s office that handles sex abuse investigations.

Victims have long denounced how bishops systematically covered up abuse by shuffling pedophile priests around while keeping prosecutors in the dark. Only in 2010 did the Vatican instruct bishops to report abuse to police — but only where required by law.

Well of course only where required by law. You don’t expect them to do the right thing even when not forced to do you?! Don’t be silly. They’re human. They’re not going to rat out a friend and colleague just because some snotty little kid whines about being fucked up the ass. Besides priests are special! They’re perfect, because of that thing Jesus said. Snotty little kids are anything but special. (But. I said But. Huh huh huh.) Snotty little kids grow up to be grubby smelly adults who aren’t priests. (We don’t rape children who have a Vocation of course. Usually. Unless they’re exceptionally pretty.)

The Italian guidelines cite a 1985 treaty between the Vatican and Italy stipulating that clergy aren’t obliged to tell magistrates about information obtained through their religious ministry.

There you go. The Vatican got Italy to agree to that, so they’re home free.

Also besides, the whole reason they have this policy is to protect the victims. No really. The cardinal said so. The Tablet reports, you decide.

The president of the Italian bishops’ conference has defended a decision to exempt bishops from having to report claims of abuse by clergy to the police, because he said Italian law does not require it and victims may not want them to.

Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco told reporters on Saturday that the decision by the Italian bishops’ conference would not fall foul of Vatican rules. “The Vatican requires national laws to be respected, and we know that there is no such duty [to report abuse] under Italian law,” he said on the sidelines of a meeting in Genoa.

The bishops’ conference published guidelines on Friday stipulating that clergy are under no obligation to inform authorities about suspected abuse but have a “moral duty” to act to protect the vulnerable and “contribute to the common good”.

And the common good of course requires that priests take care of themselves first of all.

The abuse survivors group SNAP were highly critical. They said: “The stunning, depressing and irresponsible contradiction between what Vatican officials say about abuse and do about abuse continues.” They also criticised Pope Francis for not amending the Vatican requirement, which “give Italian bishops permission to ignore or conceal the rape of boys or girls,” they charged.

In Feburary the UN denounced the Vatican’s record on child protection. In its 16-page report it said: “The Committee is particularly concerned that in dealing with allegations of child sexual abuse, the Holy See has consistently placed the preservation of the reputation of the Church and the protection of the perpetrators above children’s best interests.”

Bagnasco said some victims may not want to press charges. “What is important is to respect the will of the victims and their relatives, who may not want to report the abuse, for personal reasons,” he said.

And that’s what they’ve been concerned about all this time. Of course it is.




  1. says

    This is actually a very old idea, that what is said in the confessional remains between the one confessing, the one hearing the confession, and God. It made its first appearance in Canon Law at the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215. Catholic clergy are forbidden from breaking this “seal of the confessional,” but they are obligated to deny reconciliation until the penitent shows true repentance and turns himself in to authorities.

    What the Church should have done, if they really gave a rat’s tail, would be to suspend pedophile clergy, allowing them to remain as priests but make it a mortal sin for them to engage in any kind of sacramental ministry until they had gone to civil authorities and confessed to them. Failure to go to civil authorities within a certain period of time would result in laicization — in effect, de-ordaining them — followed by excommunication until the priest had gone to civil authorities. “Turn or burn,” the exact same moral standard the Church has used for centuries.

    Instead, the Church has chosen to follow the old custom of “benefit of clergy,” which held that clergy were outside the authority of civil law and could only be charged and prosecuted by a religious court. And the damnable thing is, the civil law allows them to get away with it.

  2. RJW says

    “..we know that there is no such duty [to report abuse] under Italian law,”

    OK, change the law.

    “What is important is to respect the will of the victims and their relatives, who may not want to report the abuse, for personal reasons,” he said.

    (Presumably with only the trace of a smirk, and of course, a clear conscience.)

  3. Al Dente says

    With the number of priests shrinking yearly, the Church has to hold on to all they can. They can’t afford to tell the civil authorities about child raping clergy because each priest in prison and not in a parish. It’s too bad some children get raped but that’s the unfortunate price of bringing Jesus to the sinful masses.

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