The Diocese of Burlington, Vermont, has announced that it will no longer immediately report cases of sex abuse to the police. Instead, as now allowed under the revised Charter for Protection of Young People, it will conduct an initial investigation to determine the credibility of the accusation. This only makes sense; otherwise, if some kid gets mad at his pastor for telling him to stop fidgeting during Mass, he could start a police investigation by saying something without any substantiation. Even if it’s apparently ridiculous, it would have to be reported under the old guidelines.
Again, this policy does not prevent a victim from going straight to the police. No one should be going down to the chancery to report abuse and leaving it at that, relying on the diocese to contact police. If you believe someone’s committed a crime against you, the police are very interested in hearing from you.
As for the potential for cover-ups by the diocese, yes, it’s still there. But then everyone who’s given it a moment’s thought realizes that the Charter doesn’t do any good if the bishops don’t reform themselves. Cover-ups can still occur if bishops don’t learn anything from the past year—I have a feeling some of them won’t.