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Archbishop expects clearer guidelines on clerical sex abuse

Hong Kong (UCAN): Returning from the recent February 21 to 24 summit on the Protection of Minors in the Church at the Vatican, Archbishop John Hung Shan-chuan of Taipei, the president of the Chinese Regional Bishops’ Conference, said that he had gained a deeper understanding of clerical sex abuse.
Speaking to Radio Veritas Asia, Archbishop Hung said he had asked a priest returning from New York why there had been so many cases of clerics sexually abusing minors in the United States.
He quoted the priest as saying that the situation now is drastically different from the past. Meeting minors, priests now did not hug them, shake their hands nor have any other physical contact.
“They put their hands at their back,” the archbishop said. “And the whole culture has changed.”
The archbishop cited a journalist who compared clerical sex abuse to a medical practitioner prescribing poison to a patient and he recalled that Pope Francis described child sexual abuse as equivalent to suffocating children alive.
Further, he questioned why clerical abusers had simply been transferred to a different diocese without addressing the issues that lay at the root of their crimes.
The archbishop recalled that he had experienced outside meddling in criminal cases when he was the discipline master of Fu Jen Catholic University in Taiwan and a student was accused of raping a woman who worked in a video shop there.
After he reported the matter to police, attempts were made to block the student’s expulsion on the grounds that doing so would damage his future employment prospects.
Archbishop Hung agreed that the Church’s reporting system should involve both in-house procedures and reporting to civil authorities.
He said transferring an abusive priest without reporting the case to law enforcement agencies was insufficient.
At the same time, the rights of all suspects to a fair trial needed to be protected before any premature judgment was made.
Archbishop Hung expected that clearer guidelines would be drafted on dealing with alleged clerical abuse cases.
The archbishop noted that the participants at the Vatican summit reached a measure of agreement in relation to assessing candidates for the priesthood.
He cited the experience of Luis Cardinal Tagle of the Philippines, who pointed out that when he was appointed archbishop of Manila it was difficult for him to know about the background of priests when he had not been involved in their formation.
Archbishop Hung noted that with a lack of young people seeking to enter the priesthood in Taiwan, some dioceses accepted candidates without proper screening, including helpful, but not foolproof, psychological testing.
However, he believed that ultimately, parishioners would be able to identify which pastors were protecting their flocks.

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