CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 7 September 2019

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Bishops’ policy on sex abuse

MANILA (SE): The bishops of The Philippines have assured the public of their cooperation with civil authorities on cases of sexual abuse by priests.

In a pastoral letter entitled Pastoral Exhortation on the Pastoral Care and Protection of Minors, published on February 6, they said they are determined to make sure the Church is always a safe environment for all people, especially children.

The statement was put together during a plenary assembly of the bishops’ conference in Cebu City during January and is intended as a guide for dioceses on how to act in the case of a charge being brought against a priest or Church person.

It is based on a global approach, and is designed to be compatible with Philippine law.

Archbishop Socrates Villegas, the president of the conference, said both universal and local Church laws on sexual abuse remain in place and demand the  strictest compliance.

“Bishops will not preempt investigations by declaring innocence or pronouncing exoneration until after a thorough, impartial and credible evaluation of facts as established by competent evidence,” Archbishop Villegas said.

The pastoral guidelines state that no priest who is under investigation for child abuse or sexual harassment will be allowed to leave the diocese.

“The bishop, rather, shall take him under his supervision in the bishop’s residence to guarantee his availability for the process of investigation,” he said.

He added that the same rule applies to priests already facing trial.

The statement says that there is absolutely no place in ministry for those who abuse minors and absolutely no way the abuse of children and the assault on vulnerable sectors of society can be defended.

“The abuse and molestation of children is intrinsically wrong and its repulsiveness does not admit of mitigation,” Archbishop Villegas said. 

The bishops are also resolute in protecting children from abuse and promised to offer appropriate care for victims and their families.

“Child-victims of clerical abuse are to be attended to, the bishop seeing to the medical, psychological and spiritual care that they need,” Archbishop Villegas stressed, adding, “Claims for financial assistance, damages or indemnity should await the proper disposition of the courts.”

 

To root out sexual abuse of children by priests, the bishops also assured cooperation with the new commission on child protection at the Vatican, created by Pope Francis early last year.

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