On Thursday last week, Pope Francis issued a new church law requiring all priests and nuns in the Catholic Church to report abuse committed by clergy to their superiors within the church.
I have written quite a bit about the Catholic Church's abuse scandal over the last few years. In that time, I have covered more than a few instances of Francis really dropping the ball when addressing the issue.
The new law issued by Francis provides whistleblower protection for anyone making a report. It mandates that every Catholic diocese worldwide has a system in place to receive claims confidentially and it outlines internal procedures for conducting preliminary investigations.
The important thing to note here, is that there is nothing in the law requiring clergy to report the abuse to secular authorities. It just requires them to report it to their superiors within the church.
Advocates for victims of abuse, and abuse survivors themselves, noted this fact. They admitted that the law was a step forward... but barely.
The Church's argument against involving outside authorities has usually been that different legal systems in different country make a universal law for reporting abuse impossible.
They argue that it could endanger the church in areas where Catholics are a minority. Ending Clergy Abuse, a global victims advocacy group, scoffed at the Vatican's argument. ECA's Peter Iseley said, “The church should establish the law for reporting and justify the exception. Instead, they are using the exception as a pretext for not reporting sexual abuse to civil authorities and to keep abuse secret.”
Anne Barrett Doyle from BishopAccountability did praise some of the measures, but she said they weren’t enough. First and foremost because there were no sanctions laid out for violations, and because the entire process was still internal within the church.
“Bishops watching bishops does not work,” she said.
This is par for the course with the church. When Francis is not saying something incredibly stupid about abuse (see the links above), he and the church are doing the BARE MINIMUM to address this horrifyingly rampant problem.
According to the announcement, the law will take effect on June 1. Dioceses must establish the reporting system and confirm with their local Vatican embassy the system is in place by June 1, 2020.
After everything that has already happened with this problem, all the stories that have come to light, all the testimonies of victims and lawsuits, this is one more link in a chain of hollow, empty moves to address the issue. Their main priority, as it has always been, is to protect the church and the clergy. Disgusting.