CDF Sets Worldwide Deadline for Procedures on Clergy Sex Abuse

On his site, Whispers in the Loggia, Rocco Palmo shares the English text of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s release today regarding the formulation of norms on clergy sex-abuse. “… the head of the “Holy Office,” Cardinal William Levada, called on every national bench to complete their own procedures on the handling of cases and forward them to the Holy See “by the end of May 2012.” Read it here.

15 thoughts on “CDF Sets Worldwide Deadline for Procedures on Clergy Sex Abuse

  1. Within the first page of this document, we have this (under general considerations):

    “The Church, in the person of the Bishop or his delegate, should be prepared to listen to the victims and their families, and to be committed to their spiritual and psychological assistance.”


    Can anyone clarify this for me?

  2. Well, guess what, skipping to the last sentence in this document provides a similar lesson in the obtuse:

    “Finally, the Guidelines will lead to a common orientation within each Episcopal Conference helping to better harmonize the resources of single Bishops in safeguarding minors.”


    and that very special phrase:


    I am in the process of further wasting my time and energy in reviewing the document for the words “ACCOUNTABILITY” and “REPARATIONS”.


  3. I agree w/ Michael’s comments, above. Also, when discussing this w/ others, including the media, it should be noted:
    1) that in para I. b) there is no recognition that the Dallas Charter calls for an audit which only determines if the diocese has a plan to protect children, not whether it has effectively implemented its plan, allowing dioceses such as mine to ignore the fact that its “manditory” provisions are actually “voluntary” for some, in my case, priests, and, if Rome truly wanted to protect minors, it should call for voluntary disclosure of all priests against whom credible allegations of abuse have been made, and waiver of the statute of limitations defense in any civil lawsuit brought alleging abuse;
    2) that in para I. d) re the support of priests, it does not call for any real protection for “whistleblowers” in the clergy, which I believe is one reason we have not seen many priests willing to speak out about abuse they know of, or have reasonable suspicion of. At a minimum, this should include vesting of their pensions, which would at least allow a whistleblowing priest who is shunned by his bishop to have some protection in retirement, which he does not have now;
    3) re I. e) cooperation w/ authorities, there should be a call for reform of both canon law and civil law so that all adults who have a reasonable suspicion of abuse of a child should be required to report it to proper civil authorities, and, specifically, that should include priests
    (this is not canon law or even civil law in many jurisdictions, including, even to today, Ireland)

  4. It appears that the CDF’s focus is “suggestions” instead of “requirements” with regard to implementation of safe environments etc…

    Also, there is nothing mentioned of penalties for bishops who are preventing the establishment of, what I would insist be, “requirements” in protecting our children.

  5. “In 2002, Pope John Paul II stated, “there is no place in the priesthood and religious life for those who would harm the young” (n. 3, Address to the American Cardinals, 23 April 2002).”

    Here’s a simple solution… remove those who do harm the young.

  6. “If the accusation [of sexual abuse] is considered credible, it is required that the case be referred to the CDF. Once the case is studied the CDF will indicate the further steps to be taken.”

    Any accusations should be referred to the proper civil authorities, as required by civil law. The reason we have been in this mess for as long as we have been is because it was left to Bishops and Superiors to determine which “further steps to be taken.”

    Let the penal judicial process continue with the CDF.. perhaps the civil judgements of guilt might be included in the the CDF process.

  7. “The Church, in the person of the Bishop or his delegate, should be prepared to listen to the victims and their families, and to be committed to their spiritual and psychological assistance.”

    “The bishop has the duty to treat all his priests as father and brother.”

    — This leaves the Bishop in the conflicted place of being “father” to the abused who is accusing the Bishop’s “brother or son”.

    — It strikes me, as it has in the past, that this presents a situation that is very similar to that of a child reporting an abusive family member to his/her parent.

    — Three possibilities seem to result because this process:

    1) The person receiving the report becomes an advocate for the victim… ensuring that the case is reported immediately, ensuring the victim is safe by removing all contact with the accused, seeking and providing support for the victim throughout the reporting/judicial/healing process.

    2) The person receiving the report refuses to believe the victim.. by ignoring the accusations, calling the victim a liar, or telling the victim to stay quiet.

    3) The person receiving the report tries to “see both sides”, essentially serving aas a weak mediator. The belief may be there, but the appropriate actions don’t follow, almost wishing the accusations away.

    It seems to me that the healthiest response for the victim is advocacy.

    1. I’ve been mulling this conflict of responsibility on the part of the Bishops. I decided to research intrafamilial abuse to see if there is anything to be learned that can be applied to this crisis. There is much out there… here is a PDF from The National Child Traumatic Stress Network:

      For a parallel view, consider the “non-offending parent” who learns about the child abuse to be the bishop, and the “perpetrating family member” to be the accused priest. The abused child is the abused child in the parish.

      Some excerpts from the PDF:

      “The discovery that someone you love and trust has sexually abused your child is extremely stressful and can bring up intense feelings of shock, rage, confusion, denial, disbelief, and guilt… Although it may be difficult, it is important to notify law enforcement. This is an important step in keeping your child safe.

      “Facing the reality of intrafamilial sexual abuse can be painful. But by ending the secrecy surrounding sexual abuse, you can help your family to heal and protect and nurture your child so that he or she can grow into a healthy, successful adult.”

      “After disclosing, children and adolescents who have been sexually abused by a family member are often tormented by self doubt, self blame, fear of the abuser,
      and distress over what their disclosure has done to the family. Sometimes, in a desperate attempt to make everything better in the family, they may change their
      story or even deny that the abuse occurred.

      “Recanting, or “taking back” the disclosure is common and does not mean that children were lying about the abuse. When the abuse is caused by a family member, children may feel pressure to recant because of how the disclosure is affecting the family or because of a lack of family support.”

      “Non-offending parents are the single most important resource that children have after they have experienced intrafamilial abuse. As hard as it may be to report sexual abuse that has been perpetrated by a family member, this is the best thing you can do to help your entire family heal, including the person who perpetrated the abuse. If you are not sure who to contact, call the ChildHelp® National Child Abuse Hotline at 1.800.4.A.CHILD”

  8. One more comment…. these procedures do absolutely nothing with regards to “boundary issues” which may be a red flag for potential abuse cases. At the very least, it does nothing for the “good of the Church” to employ a priest who continues to have “boundary issues”.

    By “boundary issues, I refer to this article’s definition: “The review board’s purview is narrow, [Ana Maria Catanzaro] said. It considers only cases involving sexual abuse, not general misconduct or boundary issues, such as a priest striking a child, making a lewd comment, or drinking in front of children.”

  9. Primary day, let your state rep know you vote and maybe remind her or him that you are concerned with the need to allow a two year window to persue sexual predators (SOL).

    Sorry, off topic again.

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