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Lauren Book: Clergy sexual abuse reporting rule doesn’t go far enough to protect children

I challenge the Catholic Church to do the right thing and take their reporting protocol a necessary step further.

A recent rule change from the Vatican is perhaps a step in the right direction, but a far cry from what our children need to be protected — and when it comes to child safety, there is no room for error.

The Vatican’s new rule requires the clergies of the Catholic Church — which has too often battled with sex abuse scandals and cover-ups — to report all known instances of child sexual abuse to church superiors. Church superiors will then be in charge of deciding what to do with this information.

It should not be at the discretion of any institution — religious or otherwise — to decide if or when allegations or admittance of child sexual abuse should be reported to law enforcement.

ALL suspected instances of abuse be reported to law enforcement, no fine print necessary.

Seventy-five percent of victims will not disclose abuse within the first year, nearly half will keep it a secret for at least five years, unfortunately, and many never tell. The silence of victims coupled with the Church’s record of bad behavior when it comes to reporting abuse, makes it impossible to expect unbiased oversight to come from within the Church. To move forward in a direction that will actually make a difference, this rule must include external oversight.

We know external oversight works. It’s the basis of the pipeline reporting in Florida’s K-12 system. Anyone who suspects or knows of abuse is required to report the crime to the Florida Abuse Reporting Hotline, as well as building-level administrators and the school counselor. This is a system that is based around the protection of children, not the institution, and ensures no child who needs help is missed.

Child sexual abuse occurs across every socioeconomic level, ethnic and cultural lines, within families who have completed all levels of education and within all religions. As we fight to end child sexual abuse, it’s important that we remove our biases and break through institutional barriers that shield pedophiles and abusers and, instead, protect children and their safety. The Church is not alone in its quest to right wrongs and seek a better path forward when it comes to abuse reporting, but their new rule falls short.

I challenge the Catholic Church to do the right thing and take their reporting protocol a necessary step further.

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State Sen. Lauren Book is the founder and CEO of Lauren’s Kids.

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