A controversial document stipulating that priests are solely responsible in child abuse cases and not the church, has been circulated by the Catholic Church in Colombia, reported local media.
So far only the archdiocese of the southwestern city of Cali has made its priests sign a document absolving their employer of all responsibility, which has once again opened the debate on liability in church pedophilia cases.
“The responsibility for complying with the norms established in the decree of the Archdiocese for the protection of minors rests solely on my person and not on the archdiocese of Cali or the ecclesiastical entity in which I render my services. I therefore assume total responsibility,” says an excerpt of the document obtained by Blu Radio.
The document also implies that all compensation for sexually abused minors must be paid by the priest themselves.
The president of the Episcopal Conference of Colombia and current Archbishop of the Andean city of Tunja, Monsignor Luis Augusto Castro, said that the document was drafted and presented at the national level but that each diocese decides whether to implement it or not.
“It is not an order for everyone, but a suggestion, because each diocese has its own autonomy and that is respected,” said the archbishop in an interview with newspaper El Pais.
Castro explained that this decision is taken to safeguard the diocese, “because if a person commits a fault, the person must pay for what he does and not the diocese.”
He added that the document should not only be signed by members of the clergy but also addressed to all employees of the diocese operating in non-religious roles.
However, people outside of the church are criticizing this document, saying it is unethical and contradictory.
Lawyer Elmer Montaña said that by forcing priests to sign a document that seeks to rid them of their civil liability, the Church intends to bypass the law and ignore the jurisprudence of the courts, reported El Pais.
“It would be as if the State made the police and soldiers sign a similar document to evade responsibility in case they incurred in a crime. This leaves a bad taste and surely the Church of Cali is contrary to the dictates of the Vatican.”
The Catholic Church has faced a wave of criticism over the acts of pedophilia by clerics and the subsequent intended cover-up of many by church authorities.