May 23, 2011

Every bishops' conference in the world must have guidelines for handling accusations of clerical sex abuse in place within a year, said the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

In a letter released by the Vatican May 16, Cardinal William Levada, congregation prefect, said that in every nation and region, bishops should have "clear and coordinated procedures" for protecting children, assisting victims of abuse, dealing with accused priests, training clergy and cooperating with civil authorities.

Since the early 1990s about two dozen bishops' conferences, starting mainly with English-speaking countries, have drawn up guidelines for dealing with accusations of sexual abuse of minors filed against clergy and other Church employees.

Other conferences have said they did not draw up guidelines because bishops were obliged to follow canon law and special provisions enacted in 2001 by Blessed Pope John Paul II and in 2010 by Pope Benedict.

Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, said the fact that conferences were given only 12 months to draft their guidelines shows how seriously the Vatican takes the matter.