Italy’s Catholic church orders child sex abuse study

The Catholic Church of Italy Announced Friday studied 20 years of internal records of clerical child sexual abuse, a step that survivors say does not fall short of their demands for an independent inquiry.

“It is our duty to suffer so much,” Cardinal Matteo Zuppi, who this week nominated Pope Francis to chair the Italian Bishops’ Conference, told reporters.

In a statement, the Conference of Bishops said that from 2000 to 2021, crimes alleged or confirmed by clergy in Italy would be “analyzed” in collaboration with anonymous independent research institutes.

It will use data held by the Vatican department dealing with abuse issues, the Community of the Doctrine of the Faith, to establish “deeper and more objective knowledge of the phenomenon”.

The study will allow for “improved preventive measures” and will be able to address “increased awareness” of victims and survivors, he said.

But groups of clerical abuse survivors have called on Italy to follow other countries to allow full independent investigation.

Francesco Zanardi, who was abused by a priest as a teenager, said it was “discriminatory” to study cases from 2000 onwards, and “many cases, like mine, have been excluded”.

Zanardi is the founder of Rete L’Abuso (The Abuse Network), which represents survivors. Earlier this year it said it had recorded more than 300 cases of priests accused or convicted of child sexual abuse in the past 15 years in Italy, out of a total of 50,000 priests nationwide.

The Church’s new study is part of a five-point plan agreed by the bishops at a meeting in Rome, which also includes plans for a “national report” on cases and preventive measures over the past two years.

The goal is for this to become an annual collection of evidence, to be analyzed at an “academic research center” and made public.

It follows a call for an annual transparent audit of efforts to protect minors by Pope Francis, whose priority is to restore confidence in the Catholic Church following a global scandal.

Inquiries across the United States, Europe and Australia have revealed widespread child abuse and coverage for many years, with many groups saying that Italy can no longer avoid scrutiny.

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