New Law Goes Into Effect June 1, Which Includes Legal Obligation for Clerics and Religious to Report Abuse, as Well as Its Cover up
(ZENIT NEWS AGENCY) - Pope Francis has signed ‘Vos Estis Lux Mundi’, new norms for the whole Church against those who abuse or cover up, which mark the second important step following the February 21-24 Summit in the Vatican on the Protection of Minors.
The Summit had brought together the presidents of the national bishops’ conferences worldwide, and had anticipated three immediate action steps: (1) the publishing of a motu proprio on the protection of minors for the Vatican City State (that was published a month after the Summit, (2) an anti-abuse ‘vademecum’ for the Universal Church, to explain to bishops clearly how to address cases of abuse and react accordingly, and (3) to create ‘task forces’ to help dioceses around the world that may need help in implementing the appropriate measures to protect minors.
The first step taken a month after the Summit involved the publishing of legislation regarding the Vatican City State. Three documents – the laws on the protection of minors in Vatican City State, the Motu proprio which applies the norms to the Roman Curia, and the Guidelines for the Vicariate of Vatican City –, were acts to “reinforce the protection of minors by strengthening the normative framework.”
Today’s document establishes new procedures for reporting abuse and violence, ensures bishops and religious superiors are held accountable for their actions, and includes the obligation for clerics and religious to report abuse.
It mandates that each diocese must have a system set up that allows the public to submit reports of abuse easily.
Below is the statement of the Holy See on the motu proprio.
Pope Francis has promulgated the Apostolic Letter in the Form of Motu proprio “Vos estis lux mundi” concerning new measures to be adopted to prevent and fight sexual abuse committed against minors, against vulnerable persons or abuses carried out with violence, threat or abuse of authority.
This Motu proprio, the product of reflection and collaboration during and after the meeting of the Presidents of Episcopal Conferences and Supreme Moderators of the main religious Institutes held last February, represents a further commitment of the Church in this area.
“Vos estis lux mundi” contains several innovative elements that aim to improve coordination between the dioceses and the Holy See. In particular, within a year all dioceses must establish stable and publicly accessible systems to report cases of sexual abuse and their cover up.
Furthermore, this Motu proprio obliges all clerics, as well as men and women religious, to report to the competent ecclesiastical authorities the abuses of which they become aware. The reported cases must thereafter be promptly verified and handled in accordance with canon law. As for reports regarding Bishops, the Motu proprio introduces procedural measures that, as a rule, charge the Metropolitan of the pertinent ecclesiastical Province with verifying what has been reported. Also established for the first time are time restrictions within which investigations must be carried out, as well as the procedures to be followed by the Metropolitan, who can make use of the specific professional contributions of the lay faithful.
Finally, the Motu proprio emphasizes the care of people harmed and the importance of welcoming them, listening to them and accompanying them, offering them the spiritual and medical assistance they need.
It is our profound desire that this new Motu proprio, accompanied by prayer and animated by conversion, will contribute to eliminating the scourge of sexual abuse of minors and the vulnerable.