Singapore – On May 13 (Monday), the Singapore Catholic Church said it would adopt the new rules issued by Pope Francis last week involving transparency in sexual abuse cases. Starting June 1, the Church will report all cases of sexual abuse.
The Archdiocese Professional Standards Office (PSO) said in an email to CNA that although the Singapore Catholic Church has an office that handles sexual abuse allegations, it was not mandatory to report these cases. Before the new rules, individuals could decide whether or not to report sexual abuse as it was based on their conscience.
“Our existing policies and procedures already provide for what the Vatican envisages. However, a short circular will be sent … to highlight the new mandatory reporting obligation,” said the PSO.
Pope Francis issued a milestone decree last Thursday mandating clerics to report cases of sexual harassment and abuse to Church superiors. The order also allows anyone to bring up their case directly to the Vatican if needed.
The announcement obligates every diocese in the world to establish a simple and accessible reporting system for such cases within a year.
Furthermore, the 19-article decree called “Vos Estis Lux Mundi” (You Are the Light of the World) raises the age of adulthood in sexual abuse cases from 16 to 18 years old.
Set up in 2011, the PSO deals with complaints of sexual abuse against children and teens, and now includes adults and the possession of child pornography. It reports all allegations to the police.
According to the PSO, once a complaint is received, a three-member inquiry is established to investigate the allegation only after all police investigations on the case have been completed.
“All complaints will be investigated, even under our existing policies. The person who reports abuse cannot and will not be subject to ‘prejudice, retaliation or discrimination’ because of what they report,” said the office.
“The law of the land takes precedence over our church investigations,” added the PSO.
“Vos Estis Lux Mundi” was declared following the numerous cases of sexual abuse around the world which has tarnished the Church’s reputation and credibility.
The Most Reverend William Goh, the current Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore, noted that there was a handful of abuse cases in Singapore last year, which were handed to the PSO for further investigation. “All were ruled as inconclusive,” said Most Reverend Goh.