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The new rules require all Catholic dioceses around the world to have a “public and accessible” system in place for reporting abuse by June 1, 2020.
The new norms which cover internal Catholic Church procedure, make provision for the reportage of abuse or cover-up to civil authorities, presenting a top-down imposition which must be adhered to by all dioceses.
Archbishop Charles Scicluna, Vatican’s top investigator of sex abuse, in a report by CNN revealed that the new rules add a layer of accountability for church leaders.
“First of all that leadership is not above the law,” Scicluna said, “and second that leadership needs to know, all of us in leadership we need to know, that if the people love the Church they’re going to denounce us when we do something wrong.”
Ouellet also added that “besides the abuses on the minors and on the vulnerable adults that the harassment or violence or abuse of power also be reported.”
Also, Top Vatican official Cardinal Marc Ouellet was reported to have said that the mandatory reporting requirement was the most important element in the new rules.
Most dioceses in the US and Europe already have these systems, and the new norms will likely be more important in countries where there are not already well-established guidelines for reporting and handling sexual abuse.
Under the new rules, investigations into credible reports of sexual abuse must be completed within 90 days, and a no-retaliation clause protects the person reporting abuse from tit-for-tat claims or obligations for them to keep quiet.
There has not previously been a uniform, universal system in the Catholic Church for reporting and investigating allegations of abuse.
The new rules were set out in an Apostolic letter, called a “Motu Proprio,” issued personally by Pope Francis, which calls for a three-year trial period for the initiative.
Although the norms represent an important clarification of procedures to be followed, they do not deal with the question of what happens to a priest or bishop who breaks these rules.
To date, no church official has been publicly sanctioned for a cover-up, and a lack of accountability is something that survivors have been concerned about for years.
Kurt Martens, a professor of canon law of the Catholic University of America in Washington, DC, called the new rules an “immense and revolutionary gift to the entire Church.”
“The new law offers whistleblower protections for all victim reporters and requires that every diocese in the world have publicly accessible ways to report abuse,” Martens tweeted. “That is simply revolutionary.”
The new law offers whistle blower protections for all victim reporters and requires that every diocese in the world have publicly accessible ways to report abuse. That is simply revolutionary.
— Kurt Martens (@DrKurtMartens) May 9, 2019
For decades the Catholic Church has been plagued by a series of sex abuse scandals in different countries around the world.
The new norms follow a global meeting on sex abuse at the Vatican in February and represent Pope Francis’ pledge to offer “concrete measures” to combat sexual abuse.