Aussie victims say church abuse laws ‘don’t go far enough’

Stock image.
Stock image.

AUSTRALIAN victims fear the Catholic Church cannot be trusted to police itself despite a new Vatican law requiring all priests and nuns to report clergy sexual abuse and cover-ups to their superiors.

Pope Francis issued a landmark church law dictating mandatory reporting of sexual abuse to church authorities or direct to the Vatican, while providing protections for whistleblowers.

Australian victims’ advocates said the law was a step in the right direction, but did not go far enough as it did not mandate crimes being reported to police.

Pope Francis in St. Peter’s Square, at the Vatican. Picture: AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino

Survivors did not believe the church could be trusted with policing its own given the long history of cover-ups and mishandling of widespread abuse by clergy, advocates said.

“There’s a real fear amongst survivors that because of its history the church cannot be trusted to police itself,” In Good Faith Foundation CEO Clare Leaney told AAP on Friday.

Blue Knot Foundation president Cathy Kezelman noted it was the first time in the church’s history that clergy now have a mandatory obligation to report child sexual abuse to senior members of the church and to set up reporting systems for those who have witnessed or experienced abuse.

“What remains to be seen is if senior members of the Catholic Church and the hierarchy will live up to these laws and report abuse when it happens,” Dr Kezelman said.

“Until this point, the church has not had a good track record in reporting abuse, protecting whistleblowers or referring reports to police and law enforcement.”

Dr Kezelman said the church law required clergy to comply with local law if it mandated reporting of abuse allegations to civil authorities, but questioned whether it went far enough to ensure that happened.

Related

George Pell jailed for six years for child sex abuse

Archbishop responds to child abuse claim against dead priest