CBCP is one with secular authorities against sexual abuse by clergy members—Villegas

By on February 5, 2016

Archbishop Socrates B. Villegas (CBCP News photo)
Archbishop Socrates B. Villegas (CBCP News photo)

MANILA—The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) is one with secular authorities against sexual abuse by clergy members, a CBCP official said.

In a pastoral exhortation, CBCP President Archbishop Socrates Villegas noted that the universal and the local Church’s laws on sexual abuse are in place and “demand strictest compliance.”

“Bishops will not pre-empt investigations by declaring innocence or pronouncing exoneration until after a thorough, impartial and credible evaluation of facts as established by competent evidence,” he said in the statement, which was crafted during its plenary assembly in Cebu City last month.

Villegas added that they were determined to make sure the Church was a safe environment for all Catholics, especially for children.

The CBCP stated that no priest, who is under investigation for child abuse or sexual harassment, would be allowed to leave the diocese.

“The bishop, rather, shall take him under his supervision in the bishop’s residence to guarantee his availability for the process of investigation,” he said.

Villegas explained that the same rule applies in respect to priests already facing trial.

The pastoral statement added that the ministry did not support those who abused minors and they did not defend the abuse of children and the assault on vulnerable sectors in our society.

“The abuse and molestation of children is intrinsically wrong, and its repulsiveness does not admit of mitigation,” Villegas said.

He added that the bishops should be the protector of the children from abuse and to care for victims and their families.

“Child-victims of clerical abuse are to be attended to, the bishop seeing to the medical, psychological and spiritual care that they need,” Villegas said.

He added: “Claims for financial assistance, damages or indemnity should await the proper disposition of the courts.”

At the same time, the CBCP expressed cooperation with the Vatican as a new commission on child protection, created by Pope Francis, started to work early last year.