The Boston Herald in a Sunday editorial criticizes the Vatican changes to the Dallas policy. Specifically, it challenges the change from requiring reporting of all cases of abuse to police to just stating that the dioceses should obey the law of the particular place they are in. So if a state does not mandate reporting abuse by clergy then the bishop could just deal with it in house and make no report.
Sexual abuse of minors is a crime in almost all cultures. Priests are not exempt from the criminal law anywhere in the United States. Failure to report internally convicted offenders to the authorities is, whether particular states require it or not or make it punishable or not, the concealment of crime.
If parents lose confidence in the church procedures, they will ignore them and go directly to police. The church may often find its cherished procedures bypassed, and priests jailed and put on trial by the civil authorities.
The Herald doesn’t get it. Parents should report the crime to civil authorities and a sexual abuser should go to jail. It shouldn’t be left up to the bishop to report it; the parents or the victim should be doing it in the first place.
Perhaps the Vatican recognizes that there could conceivably be circumstances in which the victim doesn’t want the abuse reported. In fact, we’ve heard of cases where the victim told the bishop not to report the crime, but only to ensure that the man can no longer practice as a priest. (Admittedly, I don’t agree with this. Anyone who rapes kids should be behind bars.)
But the fact remains is that people are still relying on the idea that the Church thinks its law is above civil law in this realm. No, it is complementary. The canonical procedures only determines whether the priest should remain a priest and in ministry. The civil courts should still be putting the guilty behind bars to protect society. Even if the guy gets his collar yanked, he’s still living in your neighborhood. It’s up to all of us to ensure that the guy gets put someplace he can’t hurt anyone else.