Catholic Bishops of Italy Release 1st National Report on Protection Activities in the Italian Dioceses with the Latest Statistics

On November 17, the 1st National Report on protection activities in the Italian dioceses promoted by the Italian Bishops' Conference was presented. The initiative, the first for the Italian Church, is the immediate and concrete implementation by the Church in Italy of Pope Francis' request on April 29 to the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors. The Report refers to the two-year period 2020-2021 and is entrusted to the Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore - Piacenza campus, chosen not only for its recognized expertise in the field of statistical and sociological research, but for its specific and uncommon experience in the field of guardianship and protection of minors in religious associations

It was presented on November 17,  the eve of the II National Day of Prayer for the victims and survivors of abuse, for the protection of minors and vulnerable people, the 1st National Report on protection activities in the Italian dioceses promoted by the Italian Episcopal Conference. The initiative, the first for the Italian Church, is the immediate and concrete implementation by the Church in Italy of Pope Francis' request on April 29 to the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors. “Annually, I would like you to prepare a report on the Church's initiatives for the protection of minors and vulnerable adults. This may be difficult at first, but I ask you to start where it will be necessary so that we can provide a reliable report on what is happening and what needs to change, so that the competent authorities can act” (Pope Francis, Address to the members of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors , 29 April 2022).

The Report on the Services for the protection of minors and vulnerable people and on the Counseling Centers refers to the two-year period 2020-2021: the Regional Services and the diocesan/interdiocesan Services and the Centers, in fact, were set up following the Guidelines for the protection of minors , approved by the Italian bishops in May 2019.

The collection of data and their processing was entrusted to the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart - site of Piacenza, chosen not only for its recognized skills in the field of statistical and sociological research, but for its specific and uncommon experience in the field of protection and protection of minors in religious associations.

The purpose of this survey is to provide a mapping, to verify how they are constituted, the activities they carry out, the strengths and those that will be further consolidated in the training activities, the quality of listening and welcoming the victims, the context of the abuses or in any case of the reported facts.

The study of the data that emerges will make it possible to increase the effectiveness of the training and reception service for victims.

During the General Assembly of May 2022, the Italian bishops, with the five lines of action for a more effective prevention of the phenomenon of abuse of minors and vulnerable people, made explicit their commitment to ensure that the phenomenon of abuse is contrasted, promoting safe environments tailored to the smallest and most vulnerable. Among other things, the CEI participates as a permanent guest in the Observatory for the fight against pedophilia and child pornography, established by law 269/1998.

In addition to prosecuting these crimes without hesitation and with the utmost severity, it is necessary to consolidate a culture of child protection that moves from protecting minors as a reaction to the crime and awareness of the damage caused ( child protection ) to pro-active action aimed at building environments that promote and safeguard their dignity and relational good ( child safeguarding ).

The Church, which for centuries and with generosity of people and institutions has taken care of the little ones, wants to spend itself on this front with the utmost commitment through a gigantic training effort that involves all pastoral workers and ecclesial communities.

Furthermore, one of the five lines of action approved by the 76th General Assembly concerns the commitment to implement the establishment of counseling centres: an ecclesial and pastoral service with the aim of welcoming, listening, accompanying those who believe they have been victims of abuse in the ecclesial sphere, which also occurred in the past, and who want to deliver the story of their suffering, report the abuse suffered and who was responsible for it.

They are currently present in 70% of Italian dioceses.

There is no total coverage of the dioceses since some are very small and it is not easy to find people willing to carry out the delicate pastoral service of welcoming and listening. On the other hand, in small dioceses, where it is easier for everyone to know everyone, victims of abuse or those wishing to report abuse may feel discouraged from turning to the local counseling centre, preferring instead that of a nearby diocese.

Finally, to improve prevention and contrast measures, accompany victims and survivors with more awareness and refine the criteria for other research, at a later stage a quantitative and qualitative analysis will be carried out on the data provided by the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith relating to the complaints collected/files opened by the ecclesiastical authority, from 2001 to 2020, regarding crimes against minors, presumed or confirmed, committed by clerics in Italy since the 1950s. (Edited from SIR) 

CEI Report Summary and LINK to FULL Report:

The CEI (Conferenza episcopale italiana - Italian Bishops' Conference), in agreement with the dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, is launching an investigation into the 613 files filed by the Italian dioceses with the same dicastery from 2000 to today relating to allegations of abuse against clerics.

We publish the Summary of the First National Report on protection activities in the Italian Dioceses produced by the CEI. The full text is attached. 

The objectives and methodology of the survey

The objective of the survey is to verify, in the two-year period 2020-2021, the state of the art regarding the activation of the Diocesan or Inter-diocesan Service for the protection of minors (SDTM/SITM), the listening center and the Regional Service for the Protection of Minors (SRTM) in the Italian Dioceses. This report intends to offer a cognitive tool to the Italian Episcopal Conference to implement the actions for the protection of minors and vulnerable people in the Italian Dioceses. To this end, the work methodology envisaged the definition and online administration of three survey tools, one intended for the diocesan referents to analyze the structure and activities of the SDTM/SITM, the second intended for the referents of the ecclesiastical Regions, the third addressed to the referents of the Centres
of listening. The data collected was processed by differentiating the different situations at a
territorial and dimensional level.

1. The Diocesan and Inter-diocesan Services for the protection of minors
The Services are present in all 226 Italian Dioceses. The calculations carried out refer to 158 responses out of 166 Dioceses involved: 8 Services are in fact of an Inter-diocesan nature. The statistical representativeness of the survey sample is equal to 73.4% (166 Dioceses out of a total of 226 in Italy and, to date, further mergers are in progress).
– The geographical distribution of the sample shows a relative homogeneity in the presence of Dioceses located in the various areas of our country (although Central Italy corresponds to a slightly lower percentage than that of the South and North). In terms of size, the dioceses in the sample are above all medium-sized (between 100 and 250 thousand inhabitants), followed by large (over
250 thousand) and small (up to 100 thousand) dioceses.
– In most cases, the role of contact person is a priest (51.3%), followed by a lay man or woman (42.4%) and only rarely a man or woman religious (6.3%).
– Small dioceses, on the other hand, stand out in that the role of contact person is covered, in over half of the cases, by a lay person (56.0%), while in the other cases by a priest.
– 77.2% of the Dioceses surveyed have a team of experts in support of the SDTM.
– The main activities carried out by the SDTM consist of meetings and training courses.
– The number of training meetings proposed in the two-year period under review (2020-2021) has grown considerably, going from 272 meetings in 2020 to 428 in 2021.
– The number of participants confirms the growth trend: from 7,706 in 2020 to 12,211 in 2021 , with the highest increase for pastoral workers, which rose from 3,268 to 5,760.
– Relations between SDTM and other ecclesial bodies, such as religious Ordinaries and Superiors of women's institutes, are scarce: only 4.7% declare that they have promoted common initiatives.
– Initiatives or collaborations with other entities, associations, non-ecclesial institutions are also limited (12.2%); only in 11.4% of cases does the SDTM participate in civil institutional tables.
– The diocesan Offices with which collaborations have been started are above all the Youth Pastoral Office (53.3%), the Family Pastoral Office (47.4%), the School Office (35.6% ).
– Most dioceses have set up a counseling center (70.8%), especially in large dioceses (84.8%).
– The ways in which the activities of the SDTM are advertised mainly make use of the website (67.7%), secondly presentations or ordinary communications to the press are used (42.4%).
– The SDTM referents were called to provide an opinion on the strengths and weaknesses of the system established up to now at the diocesan level. Among the strengths, priority is given to the sensitivity of educators and catechists towards the issue of child abuse (the average score from 1 to 10 is 7.3) and the management of relations with the diocesan pastoral offices (7, 1), with the diocesan seminary
(6,5) and with educators and catechists (6,4).
– The negative points are instead: the ability to manage relations with religious institutes and congregations (5.1), with non-ecclesial associations (4.9), with local bodies (4.8); finally, the most negative opinion is reserved for the communication activity carried out on the local media (4.1) regarding the initiatives proposed by the Services.

2. The Listening Centers
Data relating to 90 Listening Centers was collected: of these 21 activated in 2019 or before, 30 in 2020, 29 in 2021 and 10 in 2022. The activation of the Listening Centers is closely related to the size of the Dioceses, with 38 Centers established in large Dioceses or Dioceses that have aggregated.
– The seat of the counseling center differs from the seat of the diocesan Curia in 74.4% of cases.
– The person in charge of the Center, in over two thirds of cases, is a lay man or woman (77.8%). Less frequent is the choice of a priest (15.5%), or a religious man or woman (6.7%). Among the laity, women clearly prevail, who therefore represent two-thirds of those responsible.
– In most cases (83.3%), the counseling centers are supported by a team of experts.
– In the two-year period under review, the total number of contacts registered by 30 counseling centers was 86, of which 38 contacts in 2020 and 48 in 2021.
– The gender of the people who contacted the Center reveals a greater representation of women (54 .7%).
– Contacts took place mainly via telephone (55.2%) or, to a lesser extent, via online correspondence (28.1%).
– The reason for the contact is represented by the desire to report the fact to the ecclesiastical Authority (53.1%), by the request for information (20.8%), by specialist advice (15.6%).
– The cases reported, also for facts referring to the past, concern 89 people, of whom 61 in the 10-18 age group, 16 over 18 years (vulnerable adult) and 12 under 10 years.
– Regarding the type of cases reported, the prevalence of "inappropriate behavior and language" (24) emerged, followed by "touching" (21); “sexual harassment” (13); “sexual relations” (9); “exhibition of pornography” (4); “online soliciting” (3); “acts of exhibitionism” (2).
– The reports refer to recent and/or current cases (52.8%) and to past cases (47.2%).
– The profile of the 68 alleged offenders shows individuals aged between 40 and 60 at the time of the events, in over half of the cases. The ecclesial role covered at the time of the events is that of clerics (30), followed by lay people (23), finally of religious (15). Among the laity the roles of teacher of religion emerge; sacristan; oratory or grest animator; catechist; association manager.
– The context in which the alleged crimes took place is almost exclusively a physical place (94.4%), mainly in the parish (33.3%) or in the headquarters of a movement or an association (21.4%) or in a house of formation or seminary (11.9%).
– Following the transmission of the report to the Ecclesiastical Authority by the listening centres, among the actions put in place the "disciplinary measures" were prevalent, followed by a "previous investigation" and "transmission to the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith" .
– Among the accompaniment actions of the alleged victims, the Centers provide information and updates on the procedure of the practice (43.9%), organize meetings with the Ordinary (24.6%), offer a psychotherapeutic support path (14, 0%) and spiritual accompaniment (12.3%).
– The alleged perpetrators of the abuses are offered courses of reparation, empowerment and conversion, including placement in "specialized reception communities" (a third of the cases detected) and courses of "psychotherapeutic accompaniment" (about a quarter of the cases).

3. The regional services for the protection of minors
There are 16 regional services (SRTM) activated and they include all the ecclesiastical regions (the political regions Piedmont and Valle D'Aosta; Abruzzo and Molise; Veneto, Trentino Alto Adige and Friuli Venezia Giulia constitute respectively the Episcopal Conference of Piedmont, the Episcopal Conference of Abruzzo-Molisana and the Episcopal Conference of Triveneta). They represent the place of coordination between the diocesan Services and organize training initiatives for the members of the Services themselves. The activities of the SRTM were almost exclusively training initiatives, with 36 meetings in 2020 and 62 in 2021 (for a total of 98 meetings with 2,746 participants).