The responses will be "examined, collated, and integrated" into a final version of the Universal Framework
This June 23, 2023, the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors announced the launch of a worldwide public consultation period to work on improving the guidelines put in place by Pope Francis to combat sexual abuse. An aid program for the poorest Churches has also been launched to help them implement such measures.
More specifically, the consultation focuses on a new draft of the “Universal Guidelines Framework.” This is a manual for Catholic dioceses and communities worldwide, which the commission proposes to update. Available online in four languages — English, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese — the questionnaire also suggests that participants add their own proposals.
The questions it asks are regarding the effectiveness of the guidelines of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith. The current guidelines were established in 2011 under the pontificate of Benedict XVI and updated by Francis in his Motu proprio Vos estis lux mundi (2019). The queries also take into account the cultural context of each country.
The consultation will lead to implementation
The information and testimonies that people send in will feed into annual reports. A first version will be presented to the pontiff in October 2023, before a more complete document in October 2024. The commission explained that the responses will then be “examined, collated, and integrated” into a final version of the Universal Framework. It will then be distributed to all local Churches worldwide, who will be asked to use it to update their own guidelines.
The commission has also announced that it will help those parts of the Church that do not have the financial or human resources to ensure the practical implementation of these guidelines. A program entitled “Memorare” was set up at the last plenary assembly to enable this solidarity.
Here is the outline of the “Universal Guidelines Framework” presented on the website:
Guidelines have a formal and stable place in local Church structures.
COMMITMENT FROM CHURCH LEADERSHIP:
Church leaders acknowledge and take ownership of their moral, pastoral and governance responsibilities to work for the creation of a One Church Approach to safeguarding.
RESPONDING – CARE AND OUTREACH:
Policies and practices for competently accompanying and supporting victims of abuse and their families.
Policy is contextualized to the culture of the local Church, developing a living relationship with the social reality, so as to effectively inform the life and behavior of the local Church.
PREVENTION – SAFE ENVIRONMENTS AND EMPOWERED INDIVIDUALS:
Commitment from each member of the local Church, in their own capacity, to work towards the creation of safe environments, under the paradigm of risk management and based on a comprehensive understanding of the rights of children and vulnerable people.
RESPONDING – NORMS AND PROCEDURES:
Obligations regarding the receipt of reports, complaints, and allegations, as well as the procedures governing investigations and case management, are in line with both civil and canon law requirements.
WORKING WITH SURVIVORS, FAMILIES, AND COMMUNITIES:
Participatory and inclusive process for survivors, families, and communities in shaping Church policies to create and nurture safe practices and environments.
EDUCATION AND FORMATION:
Ensure all responsible Church agents are equipped with the necessary skills and knowledge to carry out their roles effectively. Identify and specify mandatory and priority initial and ongoing formation topics to support the effective implementation of safeguarding policies and procedures.
LEADERSHIP, ACCOUNTABILITY, AND GOVERNANCE:
Leadership to practice and evidence accountability to all safeguarding efforts according to moral, Catholic, and international requirements.
CONTINUOUS QUALITY IMPROVEMENT IN ASSESSING SAFEGUARDING:
Structures for regular internal review and external audit procedures, working toward an ever-safer Church.