People focus of new laws
LAST year the Roman Catholic Church in Fiji, Tonga, Samoa and Kiribati moved swiftly to put in place guidelines to stop sexual abuse by priests and teachers on orders from Pope Francis. Deeply concerned about attempted cover ups within the global church, the Argentinian Pontiff has been at the forefront of moves to ensure transparency within the institution of about 1.2 billion people.
In Fiji, the Archbishop of Suva, Peter Loy Chong, directed the formation of a Professional Standards and Resource Group to handle allegations of misconduct within the church. The groups comprises experts in the field of law, medicine, investigations and theology.
It has already successfully handled a number of cases which have seen priests defrocked over their impropriety. Archbishop Chong has repeatedly told his congregation that the church system of investigations will not replace the legal system and guilty parties will need to face criminal prosecution if this is warranted. In the past many Catholics have chosen not to address sexual abuse by priests for fear of being ostracised by members if the congregation.
This is one of the issues addressed by a recent meeting of PNG and Solomon Islands bishops who designed a process to deal with allegations of sexual misconduct. The Catholic Bishops Conference of Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands has finalised its policy on tackling sexual abuse and sexual misconduct.
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