Catholic priests in France will be made to wear QR codes so that members of the public can scan them to find out whether they are a sex offender or not.
People can use their mobile phone to scan the wallet-sized ID cards which will then bring up a traffic light system as part of a sexual abuse clampdown.
“It aims to prevent impostors (false priests or deacons) from continuing to act to the detriment of the faithful and the sacraments,” the Conference of French Bishops’ website said on May 5. It noted that current paper documents can be faked.
Members of the public will see a green, orange or red light depending on the priest’s status. Green means there are no restrictions on them leading a mass or hearing confession. Orange indicates that some restrictions are in place.
But not necessarily that the clergy member is an abuser (for example, a young priest may have been recently ordained and is not yet qualified to lead mass or confession). Red is reserved for someone who can no longer preach or practice, or that they have been stripped of clerical status – but the nature of the sanction isn’t specified.
The ID card will be introduced to show information about the priest and it’s main function is to reveal whether the priest is qualified to lead mass or hear confession. The code will also disclose whether the priest has been stripped of clerical status.
It will not explicitly state by the priest has had their status stripped, however a red colour code would serve as a signal that they may have faced sexual abuse charges.
The public can therefore find out whether their bishops, deacons and priests are possible sex offender.
Outdated paper version
French Catholic priests are already required to carry a paper document called a ‘celebret’ which confirms their profession and qualification however these have been criticised for being difficult to keep up-to-date.
In a statement announcing their new digital system, which is expected to be less cumbersome than paper documents, the Catholic Church explained that the new ID card would help them crack down on imposter priests with fake celebret documents and ‘intensify the fight against sexual violence in the Church’.
The database that lists the status of each priest will be updated once each year. However, in cases of serious infractions, the database will be updated immediately.
While Bishops have received their cards already, 18,000 deacons and priests are still due to receive their cards by the end of this year.
By Wanjiru Mbaru