Vatican publishes guidelines on handling abuse allegations

IT IS a sad day and a sign of troubled times when the Vatican takes the unusual step of pulling together it procedures and practices on sexual abuse allegations towards minors and publishes it widely for general consumption.

This, however, is what the Vatican has deemed it necessary to do this week. The Vatican website now includes a guide to understanding the procedures of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) on abuse, under the section called Focus.

The applicable law is the Motu Proprio Sacramentorum sanctitatis tutela of from 2001 together with the 1983 Code of Canon Law.

The new online section is an introductory guide that may be helpful to lay persons and non-canonist. While the rules are not new, this is the first time they have been brought together in this way. The decree on ‘serious crimes’ is thought to have been drafted by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger when he headed the CDF.

Under the heading ‘Preliminary Procedures’ the guide says says:

“The local diocese investigates every allegation of sexual abuse of a minor by a cleric.

“If the allegation has a semblance of truth the case is referred to the CDF. The local bishop transmits all the necessary information to the CDF and expresses his opinion on the procedures to be followed and the measures to be adopted in the short and long term.

“Civil law concerning reporting of crimes to the appropriate authorities should always be followed.

“During the preliminary stage and until the case is concluded, the bishop may impose precautionary measures to safeguard the community, including the victims. Indeed, the local bishop always retains power to protect children by restricting the activities of any priest in his diocese.  This is part of his ordinary authority, which he is encouraged to exercise to whatever extent is necessary to assure that children do not come to harm, and this power can be exercised at the bishop’s discretion before, during and after any canonical proceeding.”

To read Guide to Understanding Basic CDF Procedures concerning Sexual Abuse Allegations in full visit:

http://www.vatican.va/resources/resources_guide-CDF-procedures_en.html

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