Pope Francis makes it mandatory for clergy to report sex abuse

Pope announces rule holding bishops accountable for sex abuse, cover ups

The impact "likely will be felt most intensely outside the West, since places such as the US, Canada and some parts of Western Europe (though, ironically, not the pope's backyard in Italy), already have fairly robust reporting systems", said Vatican expert John Allen, on the online religious newspaper Crux Now.

Every diocese must have a system that allows the public to submit reports easily.

The papal document assures that whistleblowers within the church will not face retaliation, but stops short of requiring them to report alleged abuse to police, according to Associated Press.

Anderson worries that the law is nothing more than risky lip service because it doesn't require clergy to report findings to police.

In the past, some people may have thought they were protecting the church by remaining silent, but that behavior was never acceptable, Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta, adjunct secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, told reporters.

The now universal law of mandating all clerics, as well as men and women religious, to report to the competent ecclesiastical authorities the abuses of which they become aware is important, he said, "because it makes disclosure the main policy of the church".

"The Motu Proprio establishes and codifies procedures that all the Church must follow in responding to sexual abuse - not just of minors, but also of vulnerable adults, as well as cases of sexual abuse through intimidation and coercion by those in positions of authority", Cardinal Dolan said.

Francis's edict obliges the world's one million priests and nuns to report all suspicion of sexual abuse by clerics of any level.

But the procedures do for the first time put into universal church law that clergy must obey civil reporting requirements where they live, and that their obligation to report to the church in no way interferes with that. Law enforcement says no, some Catholics say yes.

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While there are no punitive measures foreseen for noncompliance, bishops and religious superiors could be accused of cover-up or negligence if they fail to implement the provisions or retaliate against priests and nuns who make reports against them.

The law says victims can't be forced to keep quiet, even though the investigation itself is still conducted under pontifical secret.

Peter Isely, abuse survivor and director of the advocacy group Ending Clergy Abuse, also criticized the law for not requiring bishops to report sexual abuse to legal authorities.

Pope Francis says reporting of the cases will be mandatory but it will not involve confessions of the congregants.

Unless the metropolitan bishop finds the claim "manifestly unfounded", he must immediately ask permission from the Vatican to open a preliminary investigation and must hear back from Rome within 30 days - a remarkably fast turnaround for the lethargic Holy See.

Victims and their advocates have long complained that bishops and religious superiors have escaped justice for having engaged in sexual misconduct themselves, or failed to protect their flocks from predator priests.

"There is such a variety of domestic laws that we can not tell states what their citizens should be doing", said Maltese Archbishop Charles Scicluna, the Vatican's senior abuse investigator.

The motu proprio, which applies to the whole Catholic Church, will come into effect June 1, 2019.

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