A training manual being used by the Catholic Church advises that bishops do not necessarily have to report child abuse allegations to the police.
The document suggests leaving the decision to the family of the victim, according to the Guardian.
The passage in the manual was uncovered by journalist John Allen.
“According to the state of civil laws of each country where reporting is obligatory, it is not necessarily the duty of the bishop to report suspects to authorities, the police or state prosecutors in the moment when they are made aware of crimes or sinful deeds,” the document states, according to the Guardian.
Instead, it suggests initiating internal investigations.
Pope Francis set up the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors in 2014 and tasked it with developing proposals to safeguard children from abuse.
But SNAP, a victims’ advocacy group, believes that the latest revelation shows that little has changed in the Catholic Church.
“It’s infuriating, and dangerous, that so many believe the myth that bishops are changing how they deal with abuse and that so little attention is paid when evidence to the contrary – like this disclosure by Allen – emerges,” the SNAP statement read.
SNAP’s criticism came just days after Peter Saunders, a victim of abuse appointed to the commission by Francis in 2014, was unanimously suspended by the other members.
A statement from the commission said that after commissioners considered the “direction and purpose” of their work, “it was decided that Mr. Peter Saunders would take a leave of absence from his membership to consider how he might best support the commission’s work,” the National Catholic Register reported.
Saunders denounced the move as “outrageous,” adding “the statement occurred before I had had any time to reflect on what I might do.”
An anonymous Vatican source said the conflict with Saunders was over his support for the commission intervening in specific cases of child abuse, a role which the Church opposes.
In a separate statement, the commission outlined several steps it had undertaken to tackle the problem of clerical child abuse. This included the announcement that 19 representatives from four continents would take part in the first diploma course in safeguarding minors at the Pontifical Gregorian University, and a request to Pope Francis that he remind church authorities of the importance of responding directly to abuse victims.