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IICSA published its final Report in October 2022. This website was last updated in January 2023.

IICSA Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

The Roman Catholic Church Investigation Report


I.3: Reporting policies within the Church

Guidance and papal laws

8. In February 2019, at the conclusion of the meeting in the Vatican on ‘The Protection of Minors in the Church’, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF)[1] issued guidance which states:

It is essential that the community be advised that they have the duty and the right to report sexual misconduct to a contact person in the diocese or religious order. These contact details should be in the public domain … In every case, and for all the phases of dealing with cases, these two points should be followed at all times: (i) protocols established should be respected; (ii) civil or domestic laws should be obeyed.[2]

9. An instruction by the CDF does not change canon law but, as Monsignor Gordon Read (an expert in canon law) explained, it is “guidance that ought to be followed”.[3]

10. However, in May 2019, Pope Francis issued a papal law (Motu Proprio) which focussed specifically on crimes of sexual abuse.[4] The papal law stated that where a priest or member of a religious institute has “notice of, or well-founded motives to believe” that child sexual abuse has been committed, that person “is obliged to report promptly” the matter to their bishop or religious superior.[5] Cardinal Vincent Nichols said that:

This is, in effect, the canonical establishment of a duty to report suspicions of abuse within the Church.[6]

11. The Motu Proprio also states that there must be cooperation with state authorities in compliance with national law.

12. As a result of both the Motu Proprio and the CDF guidance, it is clear that child sexual abuse allegations should be reported internally within the Church and externally to the statutory authorities.

Catholic Safeguarding Advisory Service policies and procedures

13. The CSAS procedures manual (published on its website) sets out the circumstances in which allegations made to the Church must be referred to statutory authorities. At the time of the final hearing, this included a 25-page chapter entitled ‘Children – policy and procedure for the management of allegations and concerns’, which provides separate advice for management of allegations and concerns depending on whether the individual who is the subject is:

  • not in a role within the Catholic Church; or
  • Clergy, Religious, Rectors, Vice Rectors, Seminary Staff Members, Members of the Safeguarding Structure, Lay Persons and Volunteers acting in the name of the Catholic Church”.[7]

14. In relation to reporting, Christopher Pearson (chair of the National Catholic Safeguarding Commission (NCSC)) said that the Church “expect[s] if an allegation comes in, it’s reported”.[8] When shown a passage of the CSAS policy for managing allegations and concerns for those not in roles within the Church, Mr Pearson acknowledged that it appeared that in some circumstances the safeguarding coordinator had a discretion whether to refer the allegation to the statutory authority.[9] He said this discretion was “at variance” to what he had understood the position to be. He considered that there should be mandatory reporting “in any allegation where somebody is in a position of trust in the Catholic Church”.[10] As a result of this evidence, CSAS and the NCSC told us that they have reviewed and amended this part of the policies and procedures to ensure there is no possibility of it being interpreted as allowing discretion in respect of reporting.

15. Mrs Edina Carmi considered the policies and procedures on the CSAS website when conducting her review of recent safeguarding case files (see Part G). She was critical of the CSAS manual merging the policy with the procedure itself, and the layout required cross-referencing different documents (which in turn lacked, for example, paragraph numbers). Despite her experience in “writing child protection procedures”, Mrs Carmi said that she found navigating the policies and procedures “extremely difficult”. She also identified some inconsistencies between policies relating to the circumstances in which local authority designated officers needed to be notified of an allegation where the accused is deceased. CSAS told us that these policies have been amended to make clear that such referrals need to be made.[11]

16. The CSAS policies and procedures manual for the management of allegations and concerns in relation to children is not an easy document to follow. It is essential that the Church’s reporting policies are set out clearly and succinctly in language that is easy to understand.


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