From Iceland — Church's Vow of Silence Breaks Child Protection Law

Church’s Vow of Silence Breaks Child Protection Law

Published August 16, 2010

The policy of the national church of Iceland whereby priests are obligated to remain silent on internal church matters violates child protection laws in Iceland.
According to RÚV, a major conference of priests in 2007 rejected a proposal that an exception be made to the vow of silence in instances of crimes committed against children by members of the clergy. A lawyer for the Government Agency for Child Protection, speaking to RÚV, said that it was out of the question that priests should be that committed to the vow of silence. It is furthermore against the law to know of the sexual abuse of a child and not report it to the police.
The matter of sexual abuse within the church has come up most recently since Guðrún Ebba Ólafsdóttir, daughter of former bishop Ólafur Skúlason (who himself was found guilty of having sexually harassed a woman), wrote a letter to the current bishop, Karl Sigurbjörnsson, calling for the church to take additional measures to combat sexual abuse between clergy and the congregation. She urged the church to “come clean” and to confront instances of sexual abuse that have been committed within the walls of the church.
However, Gunnar Rúnar Matthíasson, head of a special committee within the church that oversees incidences of sexual abuse within the congregation, told the press that the church is fully aware of instances of sexual abuse, and has for a long time fought against it. He would not, however, disclose just how many instances of sexual abuse between clergy and members of the congregation have been reported, saying only that there has been more than one.
CORRECTION: Former bishop Ólafur Skúlason was never found guilty of sexually harassing the woman in question, nor appeared in court over the matter. He was, however, witnessed in the act by a former organist of his church, who subsequently wrote a letter to church authorities on the matter, which was subsequently ignored. The Grapevine regrets this error.

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