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Child abuse prevention a priority Print E-mail

Child abuse prevention a priority, bishops told

The Herald 17 May 2011

THE Vatican has told bishops around the world that they must make it a global priority to root out sexual abuse of children by priests.

The Catholic Church said in a letter bishops should co-operate with civil authorities to end any abuse.

“This is telling the world that we mean business. We want to be an example of prevention and care,” said one Vatican official.

The letter is intended to help dioceses draw up tough guidelines, based on a global approach but in line with local civil law. These must be sent to the Vatican for review within a year.

“The responsibility for dealing with delicts (crimes) of sexual abuse of minors by clerics belongs in the first place to the diocesan bishop,” the letter says.

It incorporates sweeping revisions last year to Church laws on sexual abuse, which doubled a statute of limitations for disciplinary action against priests and extended the use of fast-track procedures to defrock them.

“This goes beyond what was done before,” the Vatican official said. “It is setting up a standard of best principles, best policy to be followed globally. It makes protection of minors a paramount principle and takes a long-term view because it talks about the formation of future priests.”

The official said if local laws require bishops to report sex offenders directly to authorities, they are obliged to do so.