Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
July 26, 2010
Offending clerics will be dealt with rapidly
Vatican streamlines disciplinary measures, updates grave crimes
CATHOLIC NEWS SERVICE
VATICAN CITY - A leading Vatican official said Pope Benedict's approval of revised norms on clerical sex abuse sent a clear signal that the Church is serious about protecting children and punishing abusive priests.
At the same time, the official said, the Vatican norms alone cannot resolve the problem of sexual abuse, which will require a continued and coordinated effort at every level of the Church.
Msgr. Charles Scicluna, the promoter of justice at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, made the comments July 15 at a briefing for reporters on the revised norms. Those revisions simplified and streamlined many of the Church's procedures in dealing with priests accused of sexual abuse of minors.
Scicluna said the revisions transform into universal Church law a number of practices aimed at dealing more quickly and efficiently with priest abusers.
"I think it gives a signal that we are very, very serious about our commitment to promote safe environments and to offer an adequate response to abuse," he said.
"This is a very important step from the technical viewpoint of canon law. But a document is always a document - it does not solve all the problems," he said.
Scicluna was asked why the revised norms, like the previous edition, impose "pontifical secret" on the Church's judicial handling of priestly sex abuse.
He said a better term was "confidentiality," and that it was designed above all to protect the dignity of everyone involved, including the victim, the accused, their families and their communities.
In some cases - for example, a priest's dismissal from the priesthood -bishops are authorized to divulge the decision and the reasons behind it if this is seen as necessary for the common good of the Church, he said.
Likewise, Scicluna said, the Church's insistence on confidentiality has limits in the relationship with civil authorities. Bishops are required to comply with civil law that requires reporting of abuse accusations.
"Confidentiality of canonical proceedings is never an impediment to the duty to denounce (crimes), and is never to the detriment of obedience to civil law."
Scicluna made it clear that Pope Benedict had made the changes in the norms, and in doing so the pope respected his area of competence.
"It is not the task of the pope to give indications about civil law. The indication to obey the law of the state was already stated by St. Paul" and it was unnecessary to reaffirm this principle in a technical text like this, he said.
Copyright © 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 -- Western Catholic Reporter
Our mission: To serve our readers by bringing the Gospel to bear on current issues in the Church and in secular culture through accurate news coverage and reflective commentary.