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Catholic clergy not obliged to report child abuse allegations, reports say
A recently released training guide reportedly says to be aware of local laws, but notes it's "not necessarily" a duty to report cases of child abuse by clergy to authorities. - photo by Lois M. Collins
Is the Catholic Church telling new bishops that it's "not necessarily" their duty to report child abuse that's committed by clergy to authorities?

"The Catholic Church is allegedly telling newly ordained bishops that they have no obligation to report child-sexual-abuse allegations to law-enforcement officials, saying instead that the decision to take such claims to the authorities should be left to victims and their families," according to Time magazine, which said "the policy was first reported by a veteran Vatican journalist at Catholic news website Crux, who cited a presentation given by French Monsignor Tony Anatrella."

Most news stories are couching the claim with such words as "allegedly told" and "reportedly said."

Time said that "Anatrella, a consultant to the Pontifical Council for the Family and the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers, also authored a training document for new bishops released by church authorities last week, in which similar guidelines are laid out."

An article in The Guardian said that "a document that spells out how senior clergy members ought to deal with allegations of abuse, which was recently released by the Vatican, emphasised that, though they must be aware of local laws, bishops only duty was to address such allegations internally."

It cited the training document: According to the state of civil laws of each country where reporting is obligatory, 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.

The Guardian quoted an anonymous "church official familiar with" the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors as saying that panel believes reporting such abuse to law enforcement officials is a "moral obligation, whether the civil law requires it or not. The commission, which is charged by Pope Francis with developing guidelines for best practices to protect minors, is expected to take part in at least some of the future trainings.

According to Rachel Brown in the Sydney Morning Herald, the training guide says deciding whether to report abuse to authorities is a task for victims and their families, though bishops "should be aware of local legal requirements."

Wrote The Guardian's Stephanie Kirchgaessner, "While acknowledging that 'the church has been particularly affected by sexual crimes committed against children,' the training guide emphasises statistics that show the vast majority of sexual assaults against children are committed within the family and by friends and neighbors, not other authority figures."

Kirchgaessner said the Vatican "declined to comment."