The Italian Catholic Church orders a study on sexual abuse of minors

Italian Catholic Church announced A 20-year study of internal documents on clerical child sexual abuse of minors on Friday did not meet their demands for an independent investigation, according to survivors.

“It is our duty in the face of so much suffering,” Cardinal Matteo Zuppi, who this week was appointed by Pope Francis to head the Italian Bishops’ Conference, told reporters.

In a statement, the Bishops’ Conference stated that there will be an “analysis” conducted in collaboration with anonymous independent research institutes on alleged or confirmed crimes by religious in Italy from 2000 to 2021.

It will use the data stored by the Vatican department that deals with issues of abuse, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, to establish a “deeper and more objective knowledge of the phenomenon”.

The study “will allow for an improvement in preventive measures” and will allow victims and survivors to be treated with “greater awareness,” he added.

But staff abuse survivors groups have asked Italy to follow other countries in allowing for a full and independent investigation.

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

Zanardi is the founder of Rete L’Abuso, which represents the survivors. Earlier this year, he claimed to have recorded more than 300 cases of priests accused or convicted of sexual abuse of minors in the past 15 years in Italy, out of a total of 50,000 priests across the country.

The new Church 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 prevention measures over the past two years.

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

There follows an appeal for transparent annual scrutiny of efforts to protect minors by Pope Francis, who has prioritized restoring trust in the Catholic Church following a global scandal.

Investigations in the United States, Europe and Australia have revealed widespread child abuse and decades-long cover-up, and many groups say Italy can no longer avoid scrutiny.