Iceland’s Catholic bishop ‘taking accusations very seriously’

The Catholic church in Iceland is the latest in a long line to become embroiled in a sexual abuse scandal.

“The bishop is taking the accusations made over sexual abuse within the church very seriously. The church absolutely wants to support those individuals affected and to provide all the services the church has to offer them.”

So says an open letter from Petur Burcher, the Catholic bishop to Icelenad, to Ogmundur Jonasson, the country’s Mininster for the Interior. The letter was written in response to a feature in the Frettatiminn newspaper about sexual abuse within the Icelandic Catholic church, as well as wider media coverage of a recent meeting at the interior ministry between the bishop, the ministry’s permanent secretary, the deputy interior minister, a child protection agency representative and a police representative.

Bishop Burcher says in his open letter that one thing he made clear at the meeting is that the Catholic church is working, in partnership with the Nordic diocese, to create a united set of rules and procedures for how to deal with cases of sexual abuse when they come to light, Visir reports.

“On behalf of the Catholic church it is requested that any sexual abuse committee or experts seek information directly from the bishop in the form of a letter instead of accusing the bishop in the media of inaction and keeping silent. Indeed it was discussed at the aforementioned meeting with the minister that the Catholic church’s lawyer should be sent all information which has yet to be released,” the bishop writes in his letter.

He continued by describing how such cases should be dealt with, when serious sexual crimes are alleged: “It is neither the role of the authorities or the church, but rather the judiciary following a police investigation, to decide on the guilt or innocence of those accused. Media coverage of sexual abuse in the Catholic church should emphasise this and also question what the rights should be of implicated persons who are now deceased,” Burcher writes.

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