HK’s Cardinal John Tong announces measures against sex abuse of church minors, saying there is ‘no place for culture of silence’

16-Mar-2019 Intellasia | South China Morning Post | 6:00 AM Print This Post

Catholic priests and other adults who serve the church in Hong Kong have been told they should not be alone with children in a confined space, the head of the city’s 400,000-strong diocese has said as he announced new measures against sex abuse.

In his latest pastoral letter printed in the diocese’s weekly publication Kung Kao Po, Cardinal John Tong Hon wrote: “There is no place for a culture of silence and covering up in church circles.

“What is called for is transparency. Victims and potential victims are those who need to be protected, not the reputation of the perpetrators, nor that of ecclesiastical structures.”

His comments follow the Vatican’s struggles to restore credibility following recent sex scandals in churches worldwide, with most cases involving children.

Tong said: “As far as church leaders and those involved in pastoral services or church activities are concerned, they should never be alone with a single child in an isolated and closed place, for whatever reason.”

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He added that priests should hear confession from children in places where trusted adults are also present.

All church activities involving young people should also be made public and should include more than one trusted adult, Tong added.

The changes to be rolled out comprize three new measures and two code revisions.

Tong said: “Persons who believe themselves to be victims of sexual abuse, or have knowledge of cases of alleged abuse, have the right to report them to civil authorities and to the ecclesiastical authorities.”

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He added that there would be revisions to two diocesan codes: the Code of Conduct for Ministry to Minors and Code of Action for Handling Complaints of Sexual Abuse of Minors in Diocesan Organisations, which were set up under the instructions of the Holy See in 2009.

Tong said the diocese would revise the two codes in light of relevant guidelines to be issued by the Vatican as a follow-up to a major summit in February.

There is no place for a culture of silence and covering up in church circles

Cardinal John Tong

Tong, a former bishop of Hong Kong, was brought out of retirement and appointed the apostolic administrator for the city’s diocese in a surprising and unprecedented Vatican move earlier this year. He is the community’s acting head until a new bishop is named to succeed the late Michael Yeung Ming-cheung, who died in January.

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The diocese’s move against sex abuse came after a landmark four-day Vatican summit in February, when Pope Francis called for “concrete measures” amid a growing global scandal, and handed 114 senior bishops a road map to shape the debate on addressing the issue.

Ongoing cases of child sex abuse by senior church members have hit countries around the world, such as Australia, Chile, Germany and the United States.

After the conference, the Vatican said it would formulate measures to ensure all bishops return home armed with procedures to be implemented.

Tong also asserted in his letter the need for the church to fully support and obey Pope Francis.

He noted that some church members harboured “some sort of perplexity, distrust or even hostility towards Pope Francis, regarding him as not knowing what he is saying or doing, or as deviating from the teaching of the church”.

He did not name any names, but added that some members seemed willing to stand by the pontiff only when he shared their ideas, but would speak against him when he held a different view.

Retired Hong Kong cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, who is known for his strong stance against the Communist Party, last year accused the Vatican of “selling out” Chinese Catholics to normalise ties with Beijing.

He has also called the Pope naive, saying he “doesn’t know the Chinese communists” and “the people around him are not good at all”.


Category: Hong Kong

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