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21 Jan 2016 Q&A Comments (1)

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Vatican: Reporting cases of child abuse is more of a “moral obligation” rather than a “civil obligation

Given the scourge clerical sexual abuse scandals have caused for the Catholic Church, the Holy Father has called for the church to exhibit “zero tolerance” of sexual abuse of minors or vulnerable adults by clergy and that “everything possible must be done to rid the church of the scourge of the sexual abuse”.

Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi have said that media houses are wrong to report  that the Holy See is telling baby bishops that they don’t have to report sexual abuse.

A reported comment from a Vatican consultant is “not in any way – as someone has mistakenly interpreted – a new Vatican document or a new instruction or new ‘guidelines’ for bishops,” Fr. Lombardi said.

Catholic bishops have been instructed to deal with clerical child abuse domestically rather than report to the police.

This is contained in the 2015 formation course which was written by French Monsignor, Tony Anatrella. Tony is also a consultant for the Pontifical Council for the Family. The guideline was made public during the training of newly named bishops recently.

The guideline stated: “it is not necessarily the duty of the bishop to report suspects to authorities, the police or state prosecutors in the moment when they are made aware of crimes or sinful deeds.” Msgr. Anatrella said that decision is up to victims and their families.

Traditionally, bishops have three key tasks: sanctifying, teaching, and governing.

Monsignor Tony Anatrella actually meant the bishops don’t have a duty to report child abuse cases to the police, that it is more of a “moral obligation” rather than a “civil obligation”. Media houses misunderstood the guideline saying that the Monsignor document serves as an attempt to prevent people discovering the truth about the sexual abuse scandal in the Catholic Church.

However, Fr. Lombardi rejected this idea, saying that “Anatrella does not say anything new or different than what has been said by the competent ecclesiastical institutions.”

He referred reporters to a May 3, 2011 letter from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

There, the congregation told episcopal conferences that it is important to cooperate with civil authorities in responding to sexual abuse crimes. Without compromising the sacraments, it said, “the prescriptions of civil law regarding the reporting of such crimes to the designated authority should always be followed.”



  1. Diane Reply

    To a serious Catholic, or any other religious person a moral obligation is far more serious that a civil obligation It is possible to escape the consequences of a civil wrong – not a wrong against God.

  2. thomraff Reply

    So, it is the Catholic position that its leaders are above civil law. Seriously? What a corrupt, evil organization in which I once was a devoted member. There is no evidence that the Catholic Church has changed in any way. Talk is cheap. Give up that evil Cardinal Law, and the rest of them who did nothing to stop this abomination. Now, I have to take a shower after being exposed to this excrement.

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