[WATCH] Scicluna to Vatican summit: All priests duty-bound to report sex abuse allegations

Archbishop Charles Scicluna addresses summit on protection of minors in church: 'It is our sacred duty to protect our people and to do justice when they are abused,' he said

Archbishop Charles J. Scicluna
Archbishop Charles J. Scicluna

Maltese Archbishop Charles Scicluna has addressed an extraordinary Vatican summit on the protection of minors in the Church, where he said that members of the clergy had a duty  to report sexual misconduct.

Scicluna, who for years prior to his appointment in Malta was the Catholic Church’s prosecutor on sexual abuse cases, is one of the prime movers of the summit.

“It is such a relief for bishops to express their sorrow and grief when they speak about the misconduct of the members of the clergy,” he said, adding that the reports on sexual abuse should be addressed to a contact person within dioceses, and that these contact details should always remain in the public domain.

Scicluna delivered a technical speech on adequate legal proceedings and how the progress of legal steps should be shared with both the victim and the accused. “There should be no interference in the penal process until one of three possible outcomes are reached: where the accused is found guilty, the accusation has not been proven, or when the accused is declared innocent,” Scicluna said.

He argued that when the accusations have not been sufficiently proven, this provides superiors with a dilemma, where a bishop may still be uncomfortable with reassigning the accused to ministry in a case where the allegations are credible. He cited expert advice as being essential in these cases. “This is a crime in all civil jurisdictions. The competence of the state authorities should be respected and a spirit of collaboration will benefit both the church and society in general,” he said.

While he argued that civil thresholds or criteria of proof may be different from those exercised during canonical proceedings due to ones in the latter being presented immediately as elements of proof, the church should have faith in the state authorities’ means of surveillance.

“These cases should be given due publicity especially as it is difficult to restore the name of the bishop who is wrongly accused,” Scicluna said.

The summit will take place over four days until 24 February and presided over by Pope Francis.