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St Peter’s Basilica (CNA/Bohumil Petrik)

In cases of a cleric sexually abusing a “vulnerable adult”, the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith only investigates and judges cases involving “persons who habitually have an imperfect use of reason”, the Vatican said in a note published yesterday. Source: OSV News.

Other cases involving vulnerable adults, including those in situations where their ability “to understand or will or otherwise resist the offence” is temporarily limited, should be referred to other offices of the Roman Curia, the clarification from the dicastery said.

While Church documents issued in the past 15 years have included “vulnerable adults” as a special category in need of protection from clerical sexual abuse, questions have been raised about whether those persons should always be treated in Church procedures in a way equivalent to children under the age of 18. For example, many asked, is a religious sister vulnerable to a priest who is her spiritual adviser in the same way that a person with a developmental disability would be.

The doctrinal dicastery’s late January clarification said while the Church recognises the special attention needed toward vulnerable adults, the definition of vulnerable adult in recent Church documents is broader than the cases over which the doctrinal dicastery has jurisdiction.

The dicastery’s investigative responsibility, it said, “remains limited, in addition to minors under the age of 18, to those who habitually have an imperfect use of reason.”

In cases of other vulnerable adults being abused, it said, other Vatican offices would be responsible, depending on the alleged perpetrator. Those dicasteries could include the Dicastery for Bishops, for Evangelisation, for Clergy or for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life.


(By Cindy Wooden, CNS via OSV News)