Roman Catholic Church moves to deal with sexual abuse by priests

January 17, 2002

The Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales has established a special child protection unity in response to a series of sexual abuse scandals involving its priests. The church has acknowledged that, in recent years, an average of four priests a year have been convicted of offenses against children.

At the same time, the Vatican has issued new guidelines on handling such cases, centralized under the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome. Critics of those guidelines charge that they neglect provisions for turning suspects over to civil authorities, 'suggesting that the church intends to deal with the problem through secret internal procedures,' according to the London Times.

In response, the Catholic Media Office in London said that 'the church's policies state that any allegations of abuse must be referred to the proper statutory authorities,' such as the police and social service agencies.

According to Catholic News Service, an apostolic letter by Pope John Paul II published late last year announced 'new norms' for dealing with the sexual abuse of minors, reportedly defining such abuse as one of several 'graver offenses' against church law.

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