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Adelaide archbishop defends Vatican's new sex abuse process

A new Vatican document for internal processes to be used by the church when dealing with allegations of paedophilia against priests does not seek to sidestep or hinder any civil court action over the issue, Archbishop Philip Wilson has said.

The Southern Cross reports Archbishop Wilson's advice that it's important that Catholics and the wider community understood this because some media reports had suggested that the new processes were an attempt to frustrate the civil courts by dealing with allegations of clergy sex abuse in secret.

He said the Vatican was not advocating the use of secret ecclesiastical courts rather than civil courts to deal with sex abuse cases, instead it had set out the procedures to be used by the church in dealing with issues associated with paedophilia, after the civil courts had done their work and irrespective of the decisions taken by a civil court.

"In fact, even if a civil court dismisses a charge of sex abuse against a member of the clergy, this document ensures the church continues to conduct its own investigations into the matter to ensure the person involved is fit to resume ministry," Archbishop Wilson said.

"And irrespective of the civil proceedings, we are also committed to dealing with those who are victims of sex abuse.

"In Australia, the Catholic Church is committed to the provision of its Towards Healing document that stipulates when such a crime is alleged it must be referred first to civil authorities. Towards Healing also sets out professional and compassionate steps for providing mediation and counselling for the alleged victims."

In his four years as Bishop of Wollongong, before being appointed Archbishop of Adelaide, Archbishop Wilson was dubbed "the healing bishop" by the local media for his rigorous policy of dealing with allegations of clergy sex abuse.


Sexual Abuse Documents (Australian Catholic Bishops Conference)


Southern Cross

7 Mar 2002