Catholic church sets new rules to protect minors

Top News | Charlotte Luo 15 Mar 2019

Catholic Church leaders and anyone involved in pastoral services should not be alone with a minor in a confined place, Cardinal John Tong Hon announced in its latest pastoral letter recently.

"Priests should hear the confessions of children in locations where trusted adults are also present, without prejudice to confidentiality," he wrote. "All Church activities involving minors should be made public and should include more than one trusted adult."

He said sexual abuse of minors and other vulnerable persons perpetrated by the Catholic clergy have caused great pain to the victims, their families and many Catholic communities, and as well as result in a crisis in churches worldwide.

Tong wrote that churches have lost a great deal of credibility and many members of the faithful have left churches or given up the practice of their faith.

The reform comes as the Holy See is hit by a series of sex scandals in recent years.

Australian Cardinal George Pell, 77, the most senior Vatican official to be convicted of sex abuse to date, has been sentenced to six years in prison for the "callous" assault of two choirboys in the late 1990s.

Some Roman Catholics in Australia are said to have lost their faith and left the church as sexual abuse cases increase.

Pope Francis convened a meeting in Rome last month to take drastic measures to resolve the problem of the sexual abuse of minors.

Tong said the plan for the future includes revising the codes as a follow-up to the meeting.

Apart from the changes to not leaving minors alone with church staff, a program will be provided to assist candidates for the workers to reach a "psychosexual maturity."

Tong said people who believe themselves to be victims of sexual abuse, or have knowledge of alleged abuse, have the right to report them to the authorities.

"There is no place for a culture of silence and covering up in Church circles. What is called for is transparency. Victims and potential victims are those who need to be protected, not the reputation of the perpetrators, nor that of ecclesiastical structures," Tong wrote. He said the best way to help the predators to change their behaviors is to make them face their conscience and take responsibility for their crimes.

Tong said the diocese is ready to offer necessary support for the psychological and spiritual healing of the victims of sexual abuse.

In Hong Kong, first case of sexual abuse of a minor by a priest surfaced in 2002. Tong said since then the Catholic diocese has been doing within its power to make its services safe for everybody, above all for minors and other vulnerable people.

Following the instructions of the Holy See, which are applicable to the whole church in 2009, the diocese devised a code of conduct for ministry to minors and a code of action for handling complaints of sexual abuse of minors in diocesan organizations.

In addition, a working committee for handling complaints of sexual abuse of minors in diocesan organizations was formed.

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