Reporting child abuse in the Church, 2

Panay News [Iloilo, Phillipines]

December 22, 2021

By Shay Cullen

POPE Francis has also instructed that such crimes are known to the church authorities to be reported to the civil anchorites and must not be withheld under the guise of “confidentiality” stipulated in Canon Law to protect the name of those involved. This has been used in the past to stifle all action against pedophile priests and to protect them. Now it is a crime to do so.

The Instruction specifically states that church authorities must cooperate with the civil authorities and share evidence with them in any investigation. Also, the victims must never be bound to silence about the abusive act by anybody or impeded by anybody. So, the traditional out-of-court settlement is morally wrong and forbidden.

Child sex abuse committed a heinous crime and must be held accountable before the law. This is justice for the victims and a strong deterrent to other would-be child abusers. Remember that Jesus of Nazareth identified himself with children in Matthew 18:1-7 and said justice must be done by tying a millstone around the neck of the abuser and he be thrown into the sea. 

So, the days of impunity in the church is over, according to Pope Francis and the Vatican office protecting the rights of abused children. However, the culture of silence and abuse with impunity is still strong in the Philippine church. Many still think that it is a virtue to protect the priest accused by a child of abuse and they blame the child victim.

The culture of fear and intimidation that follows when a child reports being abused is shocking. What is needed in the Philippine church to bring out the truth is an independent investigation like that done in France where thousands of victims were discovered. Now, an investigation in Portugal is underway.

The number of priests challenged in the Philippines for child abuse and investigated is only four or five and no priest has ever been convicted. In other countries, thousands have been brought to justice and the victims helped and compensated. 

This cover-up and inaction make the Catholic Church in the Philippines a safe haven for pedophiles and can attract them to become priests. This instruction of Pope Francis is apparently not being respected and obeyed by bishops and church authorities. 

There are many conservative bishops around the world that are resisting the reforms being made by Pope Francis and while they have pledged allegiance to the dogma of the infallibility of the Pope, apparently, they do not now believe in that dogma.  Most cases of child sexual abuse by clergy are rarely exposed.

Archbishop Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, now moved to Rome, said accusations against priests are investigated internally in the church. The vast majority of Philippine clergy are faithful and hard-working but are deeply ashamed by the terrible crimes against children that are being allowed to happen. They feel their priesthood is under a cloud by Church inaction or silence against abusive clergy.

No priest has been known to have reported a fellow priest for child abuse that led to action to save the victim and bring the abuser to justice.  They were afraid or ashamed to report a fellow priest and failed in their priestly and Christian duty to do justice and help the child victim. That silence is a form of consent.

Now, dioceses have strict rules and regulations to report child abuse and prosecute the offender in civil courts.  However, they allegedly ignore the Vatican law. 

When anyone knows of an abused child, whether by a priest or relative or sex tourist, find the courage to report it to the police, the DSWD or the Preda Foundation.