The archdiocese of Paris has agreed with local judicial authorities to systematically report all credible cases of sexual abuse by clerics or lay Church employees even if the victims do not file a complaint.
Archbishop Michel Aupetit signed a protocol with Paris public prosecutor Remy Heitz as an experiment for one year. The agreement mirrors others that the prosecutor’s office has signed with the city’s publics schools and hospitals.
It concerns any abuse of "minors or adults by a member of the clergy or lay personnel working for an institution or body under the jurisdiction of the Catholic Church”.
“We can trust French justice,” the archbishop said at the signing.
In his previous post as bishop of the Paris suburb of Nanterre, he said, “I saw that, by collaborating with the law, we got results that were much faster, safer and more respectful to people (and could) make the most appropriate decision”.
"It's not about protecting the institution or nor me," he said, adding that “we do not have the means to investigate”. The Church has made errors in the past, such as suspending an accused priest who was later acquitted.
Heitz said the agreement meant the legal system would “not leave the Church alone to judge complex situations”.
Because of this agreement, the archdiocese would not have to first hold an internal inquiry once an accusation is judged credible, and would not have to wait until a victim made a complaint before informing the authorities.
The lack of clear guidelines in the past led to cases being covered up, such as the one for which Lyon Cardinal Philippe Barbarin was convicted last March for non-denunciation of a crime.
Heitz said his office was currently investigating 12 cases of alleged sexual abuse by clerics. According to the Catholic daily La Croix, several other dioceses in France are considering a similar agreement with their local legal officials.