STA, 17 November 2020 - The Slovenian Catholic Church has updated its guidelines for the protection of minors and vulnerable individuals against sexual abuse, explicitly ordering all who work for the Church to report any suspicion of sexual abuse to the authorities. The Church's own investigation cannot be launched before a report to state authorities.
Compared to guidelines used until now, the new document says, for the first time, that "a religious worker is obligated to report to the Social Services, the police or the State Prosecution any suspicion, allegation or information of sexual abuse (irrespective of the time of the event)... at the earliest possible time".
The Church had previously held that sexual abuse allegations do not have to be reported in every case, especially when this goes against the wishes of the victim. Neither did previous guidelines include explicit instructions on reporting to state authorities.
"No form of autonomous and legal Church proceedings of investigation and resolution of sexual abuse may begin before it is reported to state authorities," the new guidelines say.
The document states that "religious workers", which involves the clergy as well as volunteers working for the Church, must cooperate proactively with state authorities in investigations and other proceedings related to the reported sexual abuse.
Adopted by the Slovenian Bishops' Conference on 5 October, the document is an overhaul of the 2014 guidelines, which were an update of the first guidelines adopted in 2006.
Compared to the 2014 document, the guidelines also lay down in more detail the Church legal proceedings in such cases, and provide more detailed instructions on reporting within the Church.
Among other things, the new guidelines mark the launch of a fund established in January to finance psychological aid to alleged victims of sexual abuse perpetrated by priests and other religious workers.
In accepting this sort of help, the alleged victims sign a statement that the use of these funds does not prejudice any Church law, criminal law or damages proceedings.