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VATICAN CITY (RNS) Catholic parents have a “right and duty” to report the sexual abuse of minors, in spite of any “ill-informed and misplaced considerations of loyalty” to their church, the Vatican’s chief sex abuse investigator said.
Monsignor Charles J. Scicluna made his remarks on Thursday (Nov. 3) in Rome, at an international conference on children’s rights.

While Scicluna spoke of disclosure only to “higher authority,” and did not specify police or prosecutors, his language suggested that he was also referring to authorities beyond the church hierarchy.

“Sacred power rightly generates sacred trust,” he said. “Unfortunately and wrongly, it may generate fear to disclose crimes by religious leaders. The empowerment of the community in this context means the ability to denounce abuse of sacred power for what it is: a betrayal of trust.”

Scicluna’s speech, which drew on the church’s experience to offer broader lessons for child protection, also mentioned the importance of cooperating with local civil authorities “within their responsibilities.”

Stressing that the “well-being of the child should be the paramount concern of all,” he also noted the need to care for the culprits, noting that “if the perpetrator of abuse is left to his or her own devices, the risk of reoffending is very high.”

Last May, the Vatican gave the world’s bishops one year to prepare “guidelines” on preventing abuse, caring for victims, disciplining abusive priests, and reporting suspected abuse to local police. The national guidelines may vary significantly by country, and will not be binding on individual bishops.

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