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Vatican prosecutor says bishops must uphold laws to protect victims of sexual abuse

The Vatican [official website] sex crimes prosecutor warned bishops on Wednesday that they must follow rules in place for protecting victims of sexual abuse in the church or they risk being sanctioned. Monsignor Charles Scicluna, the church appointed prosecutor in the ongoing clergy sex abuse [JURIST news archive] scandals, issued his warning at a symposium of bishops, the purpose of which was to begin formulating guidelines to keep children safe. In February 2010, the Vatican unveiled church procedures [JURIST report] for dealing with sexual abuse cases, titled the "Guide to Understanding Basic CDF Procedures concerning Sexual Abuse Allegations", which set up a multi-tiered system of enforcement, including local bishops and the Pope himself. Church law provides for sanctioning those who cover-up or ignore abuse as negligent or malicious in performing their job duties.

Clergy abuse has become a contentious legal issue in recent years, as the Vatican has come under intense scrutiny related to allegations of sexual abuse of children by local church officials. In November a UK court ruled [JURIST report] that Catholic priests qualify as employees, meaning that the Catholic church could be held liable for sexual abuse by clergy members. In September Amnesty International [advocacy website] claimed [JURIST report] that clergy members' abuse of Irish children amounted to torture. The report, titled In Plain Sight [text, PDF] called special attention to "people in positions of power" who "ignore their responsibility to act." Also in September, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) [advocacy website] filed a complaint [JURIST report] with the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] against Vatican officials, including Pope Benedict XVI, for widespread sexual abuse and subsequent concealment of thousands of incidents. Since 2007, the Church has settled over 500 cases [JURIST news archive] of clergy abuse in the U.S. alone, totaling more than $900 million.

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