Steps on abusing clergy reek of Church’s failure

Letter to editor published SMH 17th July/Faifax online… in response to release of new Vatican guidelines for handling child sex abuse cases

Any step in dealing with the impact of child sexual assault is welcome, but the new rules from the Vatican are too little, too late (”Sex abuse scandal prompts more stringent rules from Vatican”, July 16). They simply document more fully the Catholic Church’s internal processes for dealing with child sexual abuse, which have proved grossly inadequate.

These rules still fail to require bishops to report cases of clergy child sexual assault to police or to make the hierarchy accountable under canonical law for covering up cases.

They do speed up the process of defrocking paedophile priests, but they do not impose zero tolerance for clergy who have committed these crimes.

To list the ordination of women as a ”grave crime” in the same document is to highlight how far the church has to go in understanding the impact of child sexual assault.

Despite protestations that this inclusion does not amount to equating the two ”crimes”, the processes and punishments listed are the same. To couple them in this way is offensive to those whose lives have been irreparably damaged by their abuse at the hands of clergy.

Extending the statute of limitations another 10 years, with a loose provision to go further in some cases, displays ignorance about the courage, moral fortitude, support and time needed for victims to come forward.

The limit should have been removed, as many victims are unable to speak about their abuse until they are in their 40s, 50s or 60s – some never can. Victims of child sexual assault need validation, justice, appropriate care and support. The church has failed on all counts.

Cathy Kezelman Chairwoman, Adults Surviving Child Abuse,