ROME, Feb. 11 (UPI) -- A newly released Catholic church document tells bishops they don't have to report clerical child abuse accusations to the police.
In laying out how newly appointed senior members of the clergy should deal with abuse allegations, the Vatican said bishops must be aware of local laws but their only duty was to deal with cases internally.
"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 training guide states.
The Church's policy was first reported Feb. 7 by Vatican journalist John Allen, associate editor of the Cruxnow.com Catholic news site. The Vatican released the bishop training guidelines at an early February press conference, asking for feedback.
The Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, the special commission created by the Pope, apparently wasn't involved in putting together the guidelines, despite its designed role to develop protocols for dealing with and preventing the clerical abuse of children.
Wayne Chamley of the victims advocate group Broken Rites said the document was "unfathomable and yet it does not surprise me."
Nicky Davis, of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, said clergy should be legally obliged to report suspected abuse.
"Their systems function to protect the interests of the institution," she said. "They don't put the protection of children first."
The guidelines were written by French monsignor and psychotherapist Tony Anatrella, who has run into controversy previously for promoting the belief that children are being harmed by the growing acceptance of homosexuality in Western society.