Pope Francis has issued new Vatican laws on how Catholic clergy around the world will handle reported cases of sexual abuse.
The new rules, released May 9, are the result of a February summit on sex abuse, in which heads of bishops’ conferences from around the world met at the Vatican.
The new papal document, called a "motu proprio," applies mandatory new procedures for all Catholic Church dioceses across the globe on the reporting of alleged sexual abuse.
Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, Archbishop of Galveston-Houston and president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, issued a statement.
“Today, Pope Francis ordered a worldwide response to the evil of sexual abuse. It calls for the establishment of easily accessible reporting systems, clear standards for the pastoral support of victims and their families, timeliness and thoroughness of investigations, whistleblower protection for those making allegations, and active involvement of the laity. It also leaves latitude for national bishops’ conferences, such as the USCCB, to specify still more to account for their local circumstances. We receive the Motu Proprio Vos estis lux mundi (‘You are the light of the world’) as a blessing that will empower the Church everywhere to bring predators to justice, no matter what rank they hold in the Church. It also permits the Church the time and opportunity to bring spiritual healing.
The Holy Father said a ‘continuous and profound conversion of hearts is needed, attested by concrete and effective actions that involve everyone in the Church.’ Pope Francis was clear that this responsibility ‘falls, above all, on the successors of the Apostles.’ As part of this responsibility, bishops also will be held accountable under the authority of this Motu Proprio, which covers sexual abuse of minors or vulnerable persons, sexual acts compelled through the abuse of authority, and any coverup of such crimes.
In publishing this new law, which is applicable to the Church throughout the world, Pope Francis has made clear that protection and healing must reach all of God’s children. Following on the meeting just two months ago of all episcopal conference presidents, the Motu Proprio shows Pope Francis expects swift and comprehensive progress. For the Church in the United States, the task before us now is to establish whatever is necessary to ensure the effective implementation of the Motu Proprio. Our committees have already begun the work of preparing implementation measures for deliberation at the USCCB Plenary Assembly in June.
I am grateful for the opportunity to build upon the excellent foundation of the USCCB’s Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, the Essential Norms for Diocesan/Eparchial Policies Dealing with Sexual Abuse of Minors by Priests or Deacons, and the Statement of Episcopal Commitment, all of which date back to 2002. The existing framework in the United States including victim outreach, zero tolerance, reporting allegations to civil authorities, and lay expertise on review boards, among other measures - positions us readily to bring the Holy Father’s instructions to action. By embracing the painful experience of survivors and working on these new protections, let us pray we continue to grow into a stronger Church.”
In addition to abuse of minors and vulnerable adults, the guidelines also extend to "abuse of authority," which includes the abuse of nuns and seminarians. Archbishops or clerics must immediately inform the Vatican of an accusation, and the Vatican has 30 days to respond as to whether an investigation should go forward. The investigation into reported abuse must be completed within 90 days.
The norms will take effect on June 1, 2019
Pope Francis' Apostolic Letter “VOS ESTIS LUX MUNDI” can be read HERE