On Thursday July 15th, 2010 the Vatican unveiled its new plan for handling charges of child sex abuse by priests. Reverend Federico Lombardi, a Vatican spokesman, said the new rules “make specific provision for more rapid procedures in order to deal with the most urgent and serious situations more effectively.” The new rules are a response to thousands of allegations of abuse by priests in the United States, Europe and Latin America.
Here is a summary of the new rules:
1. The pope now has the authority to defrock a priest without a formal Vatican trial or to handout other punishment.
2. It is now a crime for a priest to download child pornography.
3. The statue of limitation is extended for the Church to hold the priests accountable from 10 years to 20 years.
4. The abuse of mentally-challenged people is declared as bad as the abuse of a child.
5. Ordaining a woman is as grave an offense as child abuse.
6. All Church investigations will be held behind closed doors “to protect the dignity of everyone involved”.
Many people worldwide are dissatisfied, upset and frankly flabbergasted at the seeming lack of morality by the Catholic Church. It took years for the Vatican to respond to the thousands upon thousands of reports of child abuse and when it did, the rules are far from the zero-tolerance policy that was expected.
The Survivor’s Network for those Abused by Priests (SNAP) stated, “Even if these new guidelines are obeyed, their impact on the ongoing crisis is likely to be insignificant.” Church law already requires Clergy to comply with civil law, but that rule was not enforced as many Bishops simply moved priests to another Church when allegations were made. “Across the globe, top Catholic officials . . . deceive or stonewall law enforcement officials, let known predators live unsupervised instead of putting them in treatment centers (and) vigorously oppose any meaningful secular efforts to expose Church wrongdoers,” SNAP said. “Changing these behaviors, not internal Church guidelines, is what is needed,” it added.
Navi Pillay, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, said she was “not at all” happy with how the Catholic Church has handled allegations of child abuse by Clergy. This is a highly unusual step for the U.N. to make such a comment against the Catholic Church. She calls for a full investigation and complete revamping of the rules because the Vatican continues to claim that only a small minority of Clergy abused children.
Anne Barrett Doyle, co-direction of BishopAccountability, wants the church to release lists of creditably accused priests. Naming suspected abusers “serves a public safety function,” she said, and is “not only reasonable, it’s absolutely crucial.”