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Vatican releases q-and-a for bishops, canon lawyers on dealing with abuse cases


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Kathleen N. Hattrup - published on 07/17/20

Manual does not have new legislation, but provides orientation for bishops.

The Vatican has provided a manual with FAQs to help bishops become familiar with the procedures for dealing with accusations of clergy abuse. The booklet is not normative, as updates are expected. It also does not introduce any new legislation. Instead, it is a tool for bishops and legal professionals who need to apply canonical norms to cases regarding the delicta graviora.

The request for this tool was made during the global meeting of the Presidents of the Episcopal Conferences on the Protection of Minors held in the Vatican in February 2019.

This edition of the Vademecum is identified as version “1.0” since periodic updates are foreseen as the normative texts or praxis in the CDF is modified. As the Vademecum itself states: “Only a profound knowledge of the law and its aims can render due service to truth and justice, which are especially to be sought in matters of graviora delicta by reason of the deep wounds they inflict upon ecclesial communion.”

Questions include issues such as: How does the preliminary investigation take place? What are the possible penal procedures? When and how the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith enters in, etc.

Answers reference the current Code of Canon Law, the Motu proprio Sacramentorum Sanctitatis Tutela issued by Pope John Paul II in 2001 and updated by Pope Benedict XVI in 2010, as well as the more recent Motu proprio Vos estis lux mundi, issued by Pope Francis in 2019. In addition, in some cases, the Vademecum specifies the differences between the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches and the Code of Canon Law for the Latin Church.

The Q-and-A includes topics ranging from gathering information to cooperation with civil authorities to suspension of ministry, and other particulars.

The full text is here.


Read more:
13 Ways to protect your children from sexual abuse

The prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Luis Ladaria, wrote a presentation of the manual for Vatican News. In it, he explains:

The course of justice cannot alone exhaust the Church’s response, but it is necessary in order to come to the truth of the facts. This is a complex path that leads into a dense forest of norms and procedures before which Ordinaries and Superiors sometimes find themselves lacking the certainty how to proceed.
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