The Vatican should speed up how it deals with the cases of priests accused of abuse, the head of the Irish Church’s safeguarding body has said, calling on Ireland’s hierarchy to engage with the Vatican to encourage this.
Addressing Australia’s royal commission into institutional abuse, Teresa Devlin, CEO of the National Board for the Safeguarding of Children in the Catholic Church (NBSCCC), said the board has asked the Holy See to reconsider how cases are handled once submitted to Rome.
“This is where I have a bit of a difficulty, because when it goes to Rome, it sits there for a very, very, very long time,” she said, explaining that 12 members of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith are tasked with handling cases from all over the world.
“They understand the gravity of these situations, and they all read every single case that is presented, and they deliberate between them,” she said, with the effect that it takes the average case takes two or three years to be handled.
Explaining that the NBSCCC had asked the Vatican to consider alternatives to this arrangement, she said, “that’s a matter for them, but I don’t think it’s justice for the accused,” adding, “it’s not justice for the complainant.”
While she stressed that slow processes do not prevent local Church authorities from implementing restrictions and monitoring plans, she insisted the Church requires “some mechanism” for speeding things up in a fair and just way. It is, she said, “not reasonable” that processes can only be expedited when personal influence is brought to bear on the CDF.
She also said it was unreasonable for just 12 men to be responsible for examining every case worldwide. “They must be emotionally drained by it,” she said.
The Irish hierarchy should push for more people to be assigned to dealing with cases in the Vatican, she said, adding, “I know there is a keenness on their part for this to be moved along much quicker.”
Mrs Devlin’s comments come against a background of rumours that the Vatican is to transfer responsibility for dealing with the cases of abused priests from the CDF, which has tackled all such cases since 2001, to the Congregation for Clergy.