Vatican response to bishop failure on sexual misconduct is inadequate
12th Jun 2015
The imposition by the Vatican of a system for dealing with misconduct by bishops, including the failure to deal appropriately with abusive priests, is simply inadequate, the Australian Lawyers Alliance (ALA) said today.
ALA spokesperson Dr Andrew Morrison SC said that asking bishops and other clergy to report suspected misconduct to the Church and not to the police was unsatisfactory.
“An internal tribunal to deal with bishop misconduct is no substitute for reporting the criminal misconduct of clergy and bishops to the appropriate civil authorities so that ordinary criminal law can apply,” Dr Morrison said.
“Otherwise, it looks like a further attempt, however well intended, to keep knowledge of the abuse within the church.”
“The imposition by the Vatican of a system for dealing with misconduct by Bishops, including the failure to deal appropriately with abusive priests, is simply inadequate,” Dr Morrison said.
Dr Morrison said that since 1922, the crimen sollicitationis issued by Pope Pius XI effectively prohibited the Holy Office, under canon law, from disclosing the results of investigations to civil authorities. This was reissued in 1962 by Pope John XXIII and Pope Paul VI. In 1974 it was extended to include even the fact of an allegation.
Dr Morrison said the order was again confirmed by Pope John Paul II in 2001 and extended to cover the abuse of intellectually-disabled adults by Pope Benedict XVI in 2010. However Dr Morrison said in 2010 Pope Benedict did provide an exception to allow, but not require, reporting to police where the local civil law required it.
“It is required under section 316 of the NSW Crimes Act and by its common law predecessor in NSW that serious criminal offences be reported to police or other appropriate authority by all citizens,” Dr Morrison said. “However this is not the case in some other states and territories of Australia.”
“It is thoroughly unsatisfactory that only where the law requires it is there permission to report, and no obligation in canon law to do so,” Dr Morrison said.