On Thursday, Pope Francis issued a new internal law obligating officials within the Roman Catholic Church to report cases of sexual abuse by clergy members, as well as attempts to cover up such acts, to their superiors. The edict does not, however, mandate that such claims be transmitted to external authorities.
Assemblymember Monica Wallace, the sponsor of the Child Abuse Reporting Expansion (CARE) Act (A.6662) which would make members of clergy of all religions mandated reporters in New York, has issued the following statement in response to new reporting protocol issued by Pope Francis:
While I applaud Pope Francis for creating mandatory reporting of sexual abuse allegations, the policy announced yesterday does not go far enough. Unless all allegations of child abuse are reported externally to appropriate authorities, who will then investigate those allegations like all other criminal cases, we cannot be confident that future child abuse will be prevented. Under current New York State law, more than 40 other professions are required to report allegations of child abuse to law enforcement. Its time for clergy of all religions to join them.
Only by mandating external reporting to appropriate authorities can we be sure that abuse allegations are handled appropriately not just by internal superiors who can then decide whether or not to further investigate such claims.
We also need to increase penalties for failure to report, particularly when there are numerous allegations of abuse that go unreported in an effort to cover-up sexual abuse. The CARE Act will increase penalties on failure to report, sending a clear message that such failure will not be tolerated.
Protecting children who are being abused and weeding out predators from our institutions must be our priority, which is why I introduced the CARE Act. New York acted earlier this year to pass the historic Child Victims Act. Its time for New York to pass the CARE Act to make it clear that a clergy member of any religion has a duty to speak up and stop abusers.