Church needs new sex abuse policy: clergy

The Church of Sweden is not taking the problem of sexual abuse seriously enough, wrote two clergy members in Sunday’s Svenska Dagbladet. Cases of priests resuming pastoral duties after abusing children show church policy needs an overhaul, they said.

Church needs new sex abuse policy: clergy
Photo: TT

Despite the fact that the Church of Sweden supposedly has a “zero tolerance” policy against sexual abuse and is a signatory of the UN’s Convention on the Rights of the Child, it does not take the situation of vulnerable children seriously enough, wrote Ewa Lindqvist Hotz and Helle Klein.

They want to see changes made in church regulations around sexual abuse.

The two women say the motivation for the call for change are several instances where priests have been allowed back into the fold after committing abuse. One especially controversial decision was made by the diocese of Visby on the island of Gotland. There, it was recently ruled that a priest who resigned in 2008 when it emerged that he had had sex with two youth in his parish could put on his collar again.

In Uppsala diocese a man who was convicted of sexual molestation of young people being confirmed in the church returned to pastoral duties. In Stockholm, a man who found a foreign woman online and had her come to his home to perform sexual services continued his duties in the pulpit.

“Where is the Church of Sweden’s zero tolerance regarding sexual abuse?” they wrote.

“This is a catastrophe,” said Klein, a priest. “It calls into question the credibility of the church. Parents should be able to leave their children for confirmation without having to be afraid that a priest might abuse them.”

Klein said that she thinks the problem is bigger than one or two particular cases. She takes issue with the way abuse allegations are investigated and dealt with, usually by administrative chapters within each diocese.

“You should allow priests to investigate complaints against other priests,” she said. “You have to at least allow the judgment to be made by another diocese.”

Her college, Lindqvist Hotz, a retired bishop, wants the church to toughen its rules.

“Sexual abuse is not a widespread problem in the Swedish Church, but every case is one case too many,” she said.

She said she believes that the issue of sexual abuse will come up for discussion at the next Church congress.