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Bishops must report abuse complaints to law enforcement, papal commission reaffirms

February 15, 2016

A papal commission on sexual abuse has confirmed that bishops are obliged to report credible complaints to law-enforcement officials, thereby contradicting widespread reports.

Cardinal Sean O'Malley, the president of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, released a statement saying that bishops have a "moral and ethical responsibility" to report abuse complaints. He added that "our obligations under civil law must certainly be followed."

Cardinal O'Malley observed that in the US, official norms stipulate that all diocesan officials must report abues complaints to public officials. 

The cardinal said that his commission has been willing to provide briefings for new bishops on the handling of sex-abuse complaints. At a recent Vatican-sponsored conference for new bishops, a French cleric, Msgr. Tony Anatrella, suggested that it is not obligatory to report abuse complaints to authorities. That presentation gave rise to reports that the Vatican is discouraging bishops from reporting abuse. More importantly, perhaps, the presentation by Msgr. Anatrella raised questions as to why the papal commission was not given the opportunity to address new bishops.

In a related development, one member of the papal commission said that she is frustrated by what she perceives as resistance within the Roman Curia to the panel's recommendations. (See today's separate CWN headline story.)

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