Archbishop Charles Scicluna has acknowledged that many victims of sex abuse by priests are “left in the dark without any follow-up” by the Vatican.

Victims have a right to know how their claim is being handled and the Church must do better in following up such reports, Scicluna said in an interview with the National Catholic Reporter.

"We have a law and we have a system which empowers people to disclose abuse or misconduct, but you also have the right to know what happens with their reports," he said in the interview, which was published on Wednesday. 

"Most of the suffering I have seen is when victims are left in the dark without any follow-up of the disclosure they have given."

Apart from his role as leader of the Maltese church, Scicluna also serves as an adjunct secretary for the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.  

Prior to his appointment in Malta, he spent 10 years as the lead prosecutor of that office. The Washington Post once described him as the Vatican’s “most respected sex crimes expert”.

In the interview, the Maltese archbishop spoke at length about the Church’s handling of abuse cases over the years, recalling how Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger – later Pope Benedict XVI – had “matured” in his understanding of clerical sex abuse.

Ratzinger “had the humility to rely on us experts,” Scicluna recalled, as he also acknowledged that in some cases things “could have been decided in a better way.”

“But that's the case. Whatever you try to do, that will always be the case,” he added.

Benedict had apologised to sex abuse victims in Ireland through a 2010 letter, he noted, and ordered bishops there to cooperate with civil authorities investigating the claims.

That letter was a “point of reference” which the current pope, Francis, had continued to build on.

“There is a continuum, there is a consistency,” between the two papacies, Scicluna told the National Catholic Reporter.

Scicluna also confirmed that a 2019 Church document that made it clear that all priests and members of religious orders must report abuse or its cover-up to their superiors, remains in force.

Pope Francis had issued Vos Estis Lux Mundi in 2019 as a three-year pilot project which lapsed last summer. But the document is still in effect, Scicluna said.

"The fact that something is ad experimentum doesn't mean that it has an expiration," said Scicluna. "It's obviously a signal that this is probably not perfect, and we're going to tweak it to make it more in light with reality because sometimes reality goes beyond what the law says."

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