BY Peter Diamond | May 17 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS     print icon print

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Bishops welcome new Vatican guidelines on safeguarding

The Pope’s new Safeguarding procedures have been heralded as ‘a significant move for the global Church’ by the bishop overseeing the protection of minors and vulnerable people in Scotland.

Bishop Joseph Toal of Motherwell Diocese welcomed the new procedures and thanked Pope Francis for ‘acting quickly’ following the Vatican’s abuse summit in February.

A statement from Bishop Toal released this week outlined how Pope Francis’ new procedures for reporting suspected abuse, carrying out initial investigations and the protection of victims and whistleblowers would be implemented in Scotland.

Bishop Toal said: “As Bishop with oversight of the Scottish Catholic Safeguarding Service, I welcome the new instruction from Pope Francis dealing with the issue of abuse.

“I am pleased that Pope Francis has acted quickly after the Papal Summit on sexual abuse in Rome earlier this year to issue further specific instructions enforcing clear norms on Safeguarding.”

Light of the world

The new document, given ‘motu proprio’ on the pope’s own initiative, is titled Vos estis lux mundi (You are the light of the world), based on a verse from the Gospel of St Matthew.

“The crimes of sexual abuse offend Our Lord, cause physical, psychological and spiritual damage to the victims and harm the community of the faithful,” the pope said in the document.

The pope also wrote that, in order to stop all forms of abuse from ever happening again, not only is ‘a continuous and profound conversion of hearts’ necessary, there must also be ‘concrete and effective actions that involve everyone in the Church.’

‘Concrete witness of Faith’

Bishop Toal added: “Pope Francis reminds us that we are all called to give a concrete witness of Faith in Christ in our lives.

“This means, above all else, that we put victims and their families first in cases of abuse. The letter reminds us that victims and their families must be treated with dignity and respect.

“In the Pope’s words, we must display a ‘commitment to personal and collective conversion, the humility of learning, listening, assisting and protecting the most vulnerable.’”


According to Bishop Toal the new papal document includes a more inclusive definition of ‘vulnerability’ that aligns with how the Church in Scotland already understands this term as it works with vulnerable groups in parish communities.

Bishop Toal added that although the mandatory reporting of all cases of abuse is ‘very significant for the Church globally’ Scotland’s Bishops’ Conference has been adopting that stance for several years.

“In the Catholic Church in Scotland we particularly welcome this because we have had a mandatory reporting policy in place for several years,” he said.

“Although it is not yet a requirement under civil law in Scotland, we require all clergy, Church employees and volunteers to report all allegations to the police for investigation.

“I am reassured to see that the new protocols are already being observed here in Scotland, as outlined in our national Safeguarding instruction ‘In God’s Image’, published in April 2018.

“Particularly the need to report promptly all allegations to the statutory authorities, to support and develop the involvement of the laity and to ensure that care and protection is offered to those who have been harmed.”


The new procedures from the Vatican will be implemented on June 1 which coincides with the release of a new training course in Scotland launched by the National Safeguarding Coordinator.

The course will focus on ‘prevention’ and the ‘importance of safe places, safe people and safe activities.’

Bishop Toal added: “Over the coming days, all 70 of the Church’s Safeguarding trainers across Scotland will be trained to deliver this course within parishes.

“This is an important development which will help to ensure that we work together to keep everyone safe.”

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