STA, 15 January 2020 - A Catholic civil society group dedicated to fighting sexual abuse in the Slovenian Roman Catholic Church has called for the resignation of Slovenia's most senior cleric, Ljubljana Archbishop Stanislav Zore, due to the church's persistent failure to tackle sexual abuse allegations against members of the clergy.
The church keeps adopting and updating recommendations on how church workers should deal with allegations of sexual abuse, but "everything remains dead ink on paper", said Igor Vovk, a senior member of the Dovolj.je (It's Enough) group and director of the Catholic pro-life NGO Zavod Iskreni.
The group has so far received 38 reports by victims against 22 priests. And while some have been handled adequately, in particular in the Murska Sobota Diocese, others continue to be ignored, it said.
It highlighted the case of priest Jože Planinšek, the director of the pastoral and youth centre Saint Joseph Home in Celje, who had been reported by five victims for sexual assault dating between 1990 and 2010. "He is still doing his job as if nothing has happened," priest Janez Cerar said.
Roman Završek, an attorney, said five criminal charges had been filed against the priest. Four have been thrown out due to the statute of limitations and one is still being processed.
The group had asked the Slovenian Lazarists, of which he is a member, to ignore the statute of limitations in internal church procedures but the request has been ignored. It has therefore urged the head of the Slovenian Lazarists, Tomaž Mavrič, to step down as well.
In general, a lot of cases of sexual abuse have become statute-barred under church law, which is why Dovolj.je is urging the church to ignore the statute of limitations at least in the specific cases brought to their attention.
Dovolj.je also wants the church to disband its task force for the resolution of sexual abuse claims since it is not doing its job and is trying to downplay the allegations. Instead, the Slovenian Bishops' Conference should form an independent commission with lay members.
The Slovenian Bishops' Conference rejected the call for the archbishop's resignation as "unfounded" and said it was under his chairmanship of the conference that the church has continued taking action against sexual abuse.
It listed instructions on zero-tolerance to sexual abuse adopted in April 2019 and recently updated guidelines for conduct in the event of sexual abuse claims which require that bishops report any suspicion of sexual abuse to law enforcement - precisely the guidelines that Dovolj.je labelled as dead ink on paper - as important steps in this direction.
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