Law

Fewer Papal Inquisitions and more Police Investigations

The Belfast Telegraph reports that victims of child sex abuse by Catholic priests are very unhappy about new guidelines drawn up by the Vatican to deal with priests who abuse children.

Victims of paedophile priests reacted with fury yesterday after new guidelines from the Vatican insisted bishops, rather than police, should deal with child abuse cases in the first instance.

A document drawn up by Cardinal William Levada, the head of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, concludes that the responsibility for dealing with child abuse cases in the Church “belongs in the first place to bishops”.

In the past there have been repeated accusations of cover-ups by the Church and claims that bishops have shielded child abusers.

The Vatican claimed that the document, to be circulated to clergy worldwide, was “an important new step” to cleanse the Church of recurring child abuse scandals and urged bishops to co-operate with police in reporting priests who rape and molest children.

Merely urging bishops to co-operate with the police while reassuring them that they’re the primary authority gets it dangerously wrong. “It is not acceptable that reporting an allegation is at the discretion of a bishop,” said Maeve Lewis of the One in Four survivors’ support group.

But an article in Time Magazine last week demonstrates why The Vatican cannot be trusted keep investigation of this serious problem in-house.

It transpires that one of the Vatican’s chief policy makers on the issue of child sex abuse has been unsuccessful at policing even his own Diocese.

Time takes up the story:

Father Riccardo Seppia, a 51-year-old parish priest in the village of Sastri Ponente, near Genoa, was arrested last Friday, May 13, on pedophilia and drug charges. Investigators say that in tapped mobile-phone conversations, Seppia asked a Moroccan drug dealer to arrange sexual encounters with young and vulnerable boys. “I do not want 16-year-old boys but younger. Fourteen-year-olds are O.K. Look for needy boys who have family issues,” he allegedly said. Genoa Archbishop Angelo Bagnasco, who is the head of the Italian Bishops Conference, had been working with Benedict to establish a tough new worldwide policy, released this week, on how bishops should handle accusations of priestly sex abuse.

No government, no politician and no law-enforcement agency should ever accept that the investigation of serious crimes can be investigated by anyone other than the police. The public should demand this. If the Vatican refuses to submit on this matter to the jurisdiction of the law in the countries in which it operates, it should be dealt with like any other international crime syndicate.

If the Vatican does not change it’s Inquisitional ruling that the responsibility for dealing with child abuse cases in the Church “belongs in the first place to bishops”, it’s churches should be closed down until it revises this position.

I fully expect an outraged response to this suggestion, but ask yourself this: if an Islamic group instructed members that it’s own Sharia court was superior to the jurisdiction of the secular courts, how long before there was a public cry for its Mosques to be closed?

The Vatican, similarly, cannot be allowed to hold a position which defeats the ends of justice and defies secular law. This ‘controversy’ has raged on for decades now. It is time our legislators took a bold step to assert the supremacy of the law of the land.

The Vatican has been, to give them their due, more successful at stamping out lap dancing among nuns.

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