There has been a mixed reaction in Ireland to norms published by Pope Francis to tackle abuse and cover-up in the Church.
Archbishop Eamon Martin has hailed Vos Estis Lux Mundi (‘You are the Light of the World’), the Pope’s apostolic letter on safeguarding of children and vulnerable adults as “a significant move for the global Church”.
Commenting on how soon the letter has come after February’s Vatican gathering of bishops on the protection of minors in the Church, Archbishop Martin said: “I am pleased to see that Pope Francis has so quickly issued further specific concrete actions to deal with the issue of abuse.”
Dr Martin detailed how abuse survivors and the faithful in general expect the Church to model best practice in all areas of safeguarding, and praised the document as an example of the Church’s commitment to listening to and learning from survivors.
“This continual work is extremely important in the path of purification in the Church,” he said, adding that the letter affirms many practices already being observed in Ireland.
While agreeing that much of the letter’s content is “excellent”, however, leading child-protection campaigner Marie Collins said the document falls short by not detailing how the rules would be enforced.
“There are no sanctions,” she told The Irish Catholic. “You can have all the golden rules you like, but if there’s no sanctions to be imposed if you ignore them then they’re not worth anything.
“They’re there, but they’re only an aspiration if there aren’t any consequences for ignoring them. That’s the big problem with them as far as I can see: there is nothing set down as to what the consequences would be if you ignore them or don’t follow them.”
In addition, she said, a failure to encourage reporting of abuse to statutory authorities remains a problem with the policy.
“Even though it’s very comprehensive about reporting it doesn’t include external reporting in places where it’s not mandatory,” she said. “In other words if you can be committing a criminal offence by not reporting then you have to report, but apart from that it’s basically not included at all. There’s not even an encouragement there to report to the authorities.”