Royal Commission Sexual Abuse
Title: Health and Integrity in Church and Ministry: An ecumenical conversation on the task of rebuilding and renewal after the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse Conference Papers
Editor: Stephen Crittenden
Publication: Franciscan Friars (Australia)
Date: 27-29 August 2018
Recommendation 16.10 is formulated as follows:
The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse was a watershed moment in the history of Christianity in Australia. Its repercussions will be felt for decades to come. Although the Royal Commission’s investigations encompassed many types of institutions, religious organisations were responsible for a majority of the incidents of abuse it uncovered. Moreover, the final report contains dozens of recommendations directly addressed to the churches.
The Australian Catholic Bishops Conference should request the Holy See to amend canon law so that the pontifical secret does not apply to any aspect or allegation or canonical disciplinary processes relating to child sexual abuse.
It goes without saying that child sexual abuse is not a topic that should be protected by the pontifical secret. Moreover, the current norm that when it comes to child sexual abuse, priests can only be confronted with and judged by their peers is a very bad idea and gives the impression, even if reality is different, of lack of openness, covering up and mutual protection. One can even argue that giving laypeople a more important role in canon law cases involving priests accused of child sexual abuse also offers an additional guarantee to the priests themselves who all have an interest in being judged in an open system without hidden codes and subtle mechanisms implicitly playing a part in the decision making.
The Royal Commission did a significant amount of work on the Catholic Church’s system of canon law. Nine of its 21 recommendations addressed to the Catholic Church concerned inadequacies of the church’s canon law disciplinary procedures for dealing with clergy and religious who sexually abuse children, and with the secrecy of those procedures. The Royal Commission found that canon law had ‘reinforced cultural attitudes that facilitated abuse’, including ‘the mistaken view on the part of some bishops and religious superiors that child sexual abuse was a forgivable moral failing, rather than a crime that should be reported to the police’.
It also found that the overriding motivation behind the so-called ‘pontifical secret’, which applies in clergy abuse cases, was to protect the reputation of the church.
For more information visit: https://vox.divinity.edu.au/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/health-and-Integrity-conference-papers.pdf