VATICAN CITY, VATICAN - MARCH 13: A woman holds rosary beads while she prays and waits for smoke to emanate from the chimney on the roof of the Sistine Chapel which will indicate whether or not the College of Cardinals have elected a new Pope on March 13, 2013 in Vatican City, Vatican. Pope Benedict XVI's successor is being chosen by the College of Cardinals in Conclave in the Sistine Chapel. The 115 cardinal-electors, meeting in strict secrecy, will need to reach a two-thirds-plus-one vote majority to elect the 266th Pontiff. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
Photo: Dan Kitwood
Photo: Dan Kitwood

Catholic bishops not obligated to report clerical sex abuse, Vatican says

A Vatican training manual tells newly appointed bishops they have no obligation to report allegations of clerical sexual abuse to authorities, according to multiple reports.

The instructions were part of a Vatican training manual outlining how senior clergy should respond to allegations of abuse.

“It's a legalistic take on a critical issue, one which has brought only trouble for the church and its leaders,” wrote Cruxnow.com Associate Editor John Allen. The Catholic news site was the first to report on the documents and criticized the church for failing to focus further on abuse prevention.

Instead, the church said the duty to report lies with the families of abuse victims. Clergy members are only obligated to investigate the allegations internally but encouraged the bishops to know the local legal requirements, The Independent reported.

"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 training document says, according to The Independent.

The guidelines were written by Tony Anatrella, a controversial monsignor and psychotherapist who serves as a consultant to the Pontifical Council for the Family, The Guardian reported.

“While acknowledging that 'the church has been particularly affected by sexual crimes committed against children,' the training guide emphasizes statistics that show the vast majority of sexual assault against children are committed within the family and by friends and neighbors, not other authority figures,” the newspaper reported.

Since 2001, the Vatican has been training newly appointed bishops on how to deal with reports of clerical sexual abuse. So far the training has reached 30 percent of the world's Catholic bishops, according to Cruxnow.com.

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