Irish victims of pedophile priests have reacted angrily to new Vatican guidelines that Bishops and not police should deal with child abuse in the first instance.
The Irish Independent has secured details of a report drawn up Cardinal William Levada, head of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith.
In his presentation, Cardinal Levada concludes that: “The responsibility for dealing with child abuse cases within the church belongs in the first place to bishops.”
The statement comes in the wake of repeated claims across the world that bishops have shielded child abusers in Church cover-ups.
The Vatican however has claimed that the document is: “An important new step to cleanse the church of recurring child abuse scandals.
It has also urged bishops to co-operate with police in reporting priests who rape and molest children.
According to the paper, Cardinal Levada had instructed bishops to send their updated national guidelines for preventing abuse by May 2012.
The guidelines are aimed at ‘facilitating the correct application’ of rules that Pope Benedict XVI issued last year on handling sex abuse.
The new document calls on bishops to ‘investigate every allegation of sexual abuse of a minor by a cleric’ and makes distribution of child pornography a crime in canon law.
The new guidelines have been welcomed to a degree by victim support groups in Ireland.
Maeve Lewis of the One in Four survivors’ support group said they were dangerously flawed and that bishops had little expertise or experience in recognizing child abuse.
“It is not acceptable that reporting an allegation is at the discretion of a bishop,” Lewis told the paper.
“The Vatican has missed an opportunity to deal definitively with the sex abuse scandal and to protect thousands of children throughout the Catholic world.”