SINGAPORE: The Singapore Catholic Church will adopt new rules issued by Pope Francis last week on the reporting of sexual abuse cases, it said on Monday (May 13).
While the church in Singapore has an office that deals with allegations of sexual abuse, it has not been mandatory to report them, the Archdiocese Professional Standards Office (PSO) said in an email to CNA, adding that the rules come into force on Jun 1.
Previously, it was left up to the individual’s 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," the office said.
It added in a clarification on Thursday that the change will apply to incidents before Jun 1.
"Subject to any further directions that may be issued from Rome, we see these norms as procedural in nature, and in the spirit of things, should be applicable to incidents which occurred before Jun 1, 2019," PSO said.
Last Thursday, Pope Francis issued a landmark decree requiring clerics to report any cases to Church superiors and allowing anyone to complain directly to the Vatican if needed.
The 19-article decree, called "Vos Estis Lux Mundi" (You Are the Light of the World), raises to 18 from 16 the age of adulthood in cases of sexual abuse.
The papal change in Church law also obliges every diocese worldwide to set up simple, accessible reporting systems within a year.
The PSO, which was set up in 2011 and is staffed by "lay professionals", already deals directly with complaints of sexual abuse against children and young people. It also reports all such claims to the police.
The new papal decree, however, covers adults as well as the possession of child pornography.
"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 PSO.
"What is new is that this law does not only cover child abuse."
For complaints received, PSO said it would convene a three-member inquiry panel to investigate the matter once it is ascertained that there is no on-going police investigations or that police investigations have been completed.
"The law of the land takes precedence over our church investigations," it said.
The Pope's decree came after a spate of abuse scandals battered Church credibility around the world.
The Most Reverend William Goh said last year that a handful of cases had emerged in Singapore. The cases were handed over to the PSO for investigation and all have been judged to be inconclusive, he had said then.
This story has been updated to reflect more recent developments.