Pope Francis has issued new laws for the Church on the investigation of clergy sexual abuse, mandating that all priests and members of religious orders worldwide are obligated to report any suspicions of abuse or its cover-up. Source: NCR Online.
The Pontiff has also established a new global system for evaluating reports of abuse or cover-up by bishops, which foresees the empowering of archbishops to conduct investigations of prelates in their local regions with the help of Vatican authorities.
The new norms, contained in a brief apostolic letter issued yesterday titled Vos estis lux mundi (“You are the light of the world”), are exhaustive in scope, applying in some way to every ordained or vowed member of the 1.3 billion-person Church. They also encourage lay people to make reports of abuse, and provide for involvement of lay experts in investigations.
In his introduction to the document, which goes into effect on June 1, Francis says he has created the new laws so the Church will “continue to learn from the bitter lessons of the past, looking with hope towards the future”.
“The crimes of sexual abuse offend Our Lord, cause physical, psychological and spiritual damage to the victims and harm the community of the faithful,” the Pope states. “In order that these phenomena, in all their forms, never happen again, a continuous and profound conversion of hearts is needed, attested by concrete and effective actions that involve everyone in the Church.”
The norms are the second set of laws Francis has issued on abuse in the three months since he held a global summit on the issue with the presidents of bishops’ conferences in February. They follow release of a new child-protection policy for Vatican City and for the Church’s global ambassadors.
The apostolic letter, which contains 19 articles, has two parts.
The first deals generally with reporting of abuse or cover-up, mandating that any priest or member of a religious order who “has notice of, or well-founded motives” to believe that either has occurred is obliged to report it to their bishop or superior.
The norms also make clear that “any person” can make a report regarding sexual abuse or its cover-up, either by communicating with their bishop “or by any other appropriate means,” including direct communication with the Vatican.
The second part outlines the new process for accountability for bishops who abuse or cover-up abuse.
New rules on abuse mark a major step forward (NCR Online)