THE MUNICH REPORT AND RATZINGER’S FIGHT AGAINST ABUSE

THE MUNICH REPORT AND RATZINGER’S FIGHT AGAINST ABUSE

Following the publication of the investigation*,  the years of the Pope Emeritus’ Bavarian episcopate are in the spotlight. It’s only fair to remember Benedict XVI’s fight against clerical paedophilia during his pontificate and his willingness to meet and listen to the victims, asking them for forgiveness.

By Andrea Tornielli **

The words that were used during the press conference to present the report on abuse in the Archdiocese of Munich, as well as the seventy-two pages of the document dedicated to the brief Bavarian episcopate of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, have filled the newspapers in the past week and have triggered some very strong comments. The Pope emeritus, with the help of his collaborators, did not evade the questions of the law firm commissioned by the Archdiocese of Munich to draw up a report that examines a very long span of time, from the episcopate of Cardinal Michael von Faulhaber to that of the current Cardinal Reinhard Marx. Benedict XVI provided an 82-page response, after having been able to examine some of the documentation in the diocesan archives. Predictably, it was Ratzinger’s four and a half years at the helm of the Bavarian diocese that monopolized the attention of commentators. (photo Munich cathedral)

Some of the accusations have been known for more than ten years and had already been published by important international media. Today, there are four cases being contested against Ratzinger, and his personal secretary, Archbishop Georg Gänswein, has announced that the Pope Emeritus will issue a detailed statement after he has finished examining the report. In the meantime, however, the reiterated condemnation of these crimes by Benedict XVI can be forcefully repeated, and the steps taken by the Church in recent years, starting from his pontificate, can be retraced.

Child abuse is a horrendous crime. The abuse committed against minors by clerics is possibly an even more revolting crime, and this has been tirelessly repeated by the last two Popes: it’s a sin that cries out vengeance before God that little ones suffer violence on the part of priests or religious to whom their parents have entrusted them to be educated in the faith. It is unacceptable that they become victims of sexual predators hiding in ecclesiastical garb. The most eloquent words on this subject remain those pronounced by Jesus: those who scandalize the little ones would do better to hang a millstone around their necks and throw themselves into the sea.

It cannot be forgotten that Ratzinger, who as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, had already fought the phenomenon in the last phase of the pontificate of St. John Paul II, with whom he had been a close collaborator, and once he became Pope, promulgated very harsh norms against clerical abusers, special laws to combat paedophilia. What’s more, with his concrete example, Benedict XVI testified to the urgency of that change of mentality that is so important to counter the phenomenon of abuse: listening and closeness to the victims to whom forgiveness must always be asked. For too long abused children and their relatives, instead of being considered wounded persons to be welcomed and accompanied on the path of healing, have been kept at a distance. Unfortunately, they have often been distanced and even pointed to as “enemies” of the Church and its good name.

It was Joseph Ratzinger, the first Pope to meet several times with victims of abuse during his apostolic journeys. It was Benedict XVI, even against the opinion of many self-styled “Ratzingerians”, who upheld, in the midst of the storm of scandals in Ireland and Germany, the face of a penitential Church, which humbles itself in asking for forgiveness, which feels dismay, remorse, pain, compassion and closeness.

It is precisely in this penitential image that the heart of Benedict’s message lies. The Church is not a business, it is not saved only by good practices or by the application, even if indispensable, of strict and effective norms. The Church needs to ask for forgiveness, help and salvation from the Only One who can give them, from the Crucified One who has always been on the side of the victims and never of the executioners.

With extreme lucidity, on the flight that took him to Lisbon in May 2010, Benedict XVI recognized that “the sufferings of the Church come precisely from the inside of the Church, from the sin that exists within the Church. We have always been aware of this, but now we do see it in a truly appalling way: that the greatest persecution of the Church does not come from the external enemies, but is born of sin within the Church, and that the Church needs deeply to learn repentance again, to accept purification, to learn forgiveness on one side and the need for justice on the other. Forgiveness does not replace justice.” These words were preceded and followed by concrete facts in the fight against the scourge of clerical paedophilia. All this can neither be forgotten nor erased.

The reconstructions contained in the Munich report – which, it must be remembered, is not a judicial inquiry nor a final sentence – will help to combat paedophilia in the Church if they are not reduced to the search for easy scapegoats and summary judgments. Only by avoiding these risks will they be able to contribute to the search for justice in truth and to a collective examination of conscience on the errors of the past.

* Munich Report on sex abuse in Germany

**editorial director of the Dicastery for Communication since December 2018.

BENEDICT XVI CONFIRMS HE ATTENDED DISPUTED 1980 MEETING IN MUNICH

BENEDICT XVI CONFIRMS HE ATTENDED DISPUTED 1980 MEETING IN MUNICH

By CNA Staff – Munich, Germany, Jan 24, 2022 /

Pope emeritus Benedict XVI has apologized for mistakenly saying that he did not attend a disputed meeting in 1980 while serving as archbishop of Munich and Freising.

In a statement published in the German Catholic weekly Die Tagepost on Jan. 24, the 94-year-old retired pope said that the mistake was the result of an editing error, reported CNA Deutsch, CNA’s German-language news partner. Benedict XVI initially told investigators that he was not present at a meeting of archdiocesan officials on Jan. 15, 1980.

But in the statement, Archbishop Georg Gänswein, Benedict XVI’s private secretary, said that the pope emeritus “would now like to make it clear that, contrary to what was stated during the hearing, he took part in the ordinariate meeting on Jan. 15, 1980.”

“The statement to the contrary was therefore objectively incorrect,” he said.

“He would like to emphasize that this was not done out of bad faith, but was the result of an error in the editing of his statement. He will explain how this came about in the pending statement. He is very sorry for this mistake and asks for this mistake to be excused.”

A more than 1,000-page report *** on the handling of abuse cases in the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising, issued on Jan. 20, accused the retired pope of mishandling four cases during his tenure as archbishop from 1977 to 1982.

Benedict XVI, who strongly denies cover-up allegations, sent 82 pages of observations to researchers compiling the report.

One of the four cases related to a priest named Father Peter Hullermann, who is accused of abusing at least 23 boys aged eight to 16 between 1973 and 1996.

The case was first highlighted by the media in 2010, when Benedict XVI was pope, and again earlier this month.

*** I have learned that the report mentioned in this story is actually well over 1,600 pages

ABP. GAENSWEIN ON GERMAN SEX ABUSE REPORT THAT NAMES POPE EMERITUS

ABP. GAENSWEIN ON GERMAN SEX ABUSE REPORT THAT NAMES POPE EMERITUS

Thursday morning, upon receiving the German report of over 1,000 pages on sex abuse cases in that country, Holy See Press Office Director Matteo Bruni told reporters: “The Holy See believes it must give due attention to the document, whose content it does not currently know. In the next few days, following its publication, the Holy See will examine it and thus be able to appropriately examine the details. In reiterating the sense of shame and remorse for the abuse of minors committed by clerics, the Holy See ensures closeness to all victims and confirms the path taken to protect the little ones by guaranteeing them safe environments.”

Following Matteo Bruni’s declaration, Archbishop Georg Gänswein, personal secretary to Pope Emeritus Benedict, released the following statement to reporters: “Until this afternoon, Benedict XVI had not known the report of the Westpfahl-Spilker-Wastl law firm, over 1,000 pages in length. In coming days, he will examine the text with the necessary attention. The Pope Emeritus, as he has already repeated several times during the years of his pontificate, expresses his dismay and shame at the abuse of minors committed by clerics, and manifests his personal closeness and his prayers for all the victims, some of whom he met on the occasion of his apostolic journeys.”

For more on German document: https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/250153/report-on-handling-of-abuse-cases-in-germany-s-munich-archdiocese-released

POPE FRANCIS ON FRENCH ABUSE REPORT: “TO YOU, LORD THE GLORY, TO US THE SHAME” – TRUE FREEDOM FLOWS FROM THE CROSS OF CHRIST – VATICAN TRIBUNAL ORDERS FURTHER INVESTIGATION IN FRAUD TRIAL – VATICAN ABUSE TRIAL: COURT CLEARS FORMER ALTAR BOY AND EX-YOUTH SEMINARY RECTOR OF CRIMES

There is such a quantity of important news today that I barely know where to start. There are reports about two trials being held in the Vatican as well as words spoken by Pope Francis at today’s general audience about a report from France on decades of sex abuse by clergy.

The general audience catechesis on St. Paul’s Letter to the Galatians continued with a remarkable text on freedom, based on Paul’s writings, from the Holy Father. I’ll start with the general audience and work my way through the Vatican trials.

POPE FRANCIS ON FRENCH ABUSE REPORT: “TO YOU, LORD THE GLORY, TO US THE SHAME”

Following his weekly general audience catechesis on St. Paul’s Letter to the Galatians and summaries in diverse languages given by monsignori who work in the Secretariat of State, Pope Francis, obviously feeling pain and sadness, spoke of the just-released report on sex abuse cases in the Church in France:

 “Yesterday, the French Bishops’ Conference and the Conference of French men and women religious received received the report from the independent commission on sexual abuse in the Church, charged with assessing the extent of the phenomenon of sexual assaults and violence against minors from 1950 onwards.  “Unfortunately,” lamented the Holy Father, “this resulted in considerable numbers. I wish to express to the victims my sadness and my pain for the traumas they have suffered and my shame, our shame, my shame, for the inability of the Church for so long to put them at the center of her concerns, assuring them of my prayers.

“And I pray – and we all pray together: ‘To you Lord the glory, to us the shame’: this is the moment of shame. I encourage the bishops and you, dear brothers who have come here to share this moment, I encourage the bishops and religious superiors to continue to make all efforts so that similar tragedies do not happen again. I express closeness and paternal support to the priests of France in the face of this trial, which is difficult but healthy, and I invite French Catholics to assume their responsibilities to ensure that the Church is a safe home for all. Thank you.”

TRUE FREEDOM FLOWS FROM THE CROSS OF CHRIST

Today’s general audience took place in a jam-packed Paul VI Hall, to the obvious delight of the many pilgrims and visitors present for the weekly gathering with the Holy Father. It was pouring rain outside but the hall was warm and sunny with miles and applause as Pope Francis continued his catechesis on St. Paul’s Letter to the Galatians. (Vatican photo)

“We now consider the Apostle’s teaching on Christian freedom,” Francis began. “Freedom is a treasure that is truly appreciated only when it is lost. For many of us who are used to being free, it often appears to be an acquired right rather than a gift and a legacy to be preserved. How many misunderstandings there are around the topic of freedom, and how many different views have clashed over the centuries!”

“For Paul, that freedom is a gift, the fruit of our new life in Christ. Through baptism, we have been freed from our bondage to sin and freed for a life of generous love in obedience to the Gospel.”

“Above all,” the Holy Father emphasized, “St. Paul’s teaching about freedom is positive. The Apostle proposes the teaching of Jesus that we find in the Gospel of John as well: ‘If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free’. Therefore, the call is above all to remain in Jesus, the source of truth who makes us free. Christian freedom, therefore, is founded on two fundamental pillars: first, the grace of the Lord Jesus; second, the truth that Christ reveals to us and which is He himself.”

Francis explained that, “The second pillar of freedom is the truth. In this case as well, it is necessary to remember that the truth of faith is not an abstract theory, but the reality of the living Christ, who touches the daily and overall meaning of personal life. How many people there are who have never studied, who do not even know how to read and write, but who have understood Christ’s message well, who have this freedom that makes them free.”

“The truth that Christ brings is in fact truthfulness about ourselves. Our journey along the path of Christian freedom is not easy, but guided and sustained by the love of the Crucified Lord, and by his liberating truth, we will find our ultimate fulfilment in accordance with God’s saving plan.”

VATICAN TRIBUNAL ORDERS FURTHER INVESTIGATION IN FRAUD TRIAL

A Vatican tribunal, which in July this year indicted 10 people, including Sardinian Cardinal Giovanni Becciu, of embezzlement, corruption, extortion, money laundering, fraud, and abuse of office, among the charges, today agreed with defense lawyers who, at a hearing on October 5 said the defendants had been deprived of their full rights and the trial should either end or re-start the investigations.

The tribunal today ordered prosecutors to turn over evidence that had not been heretofore seen by the accused, including a videotaped recording of a key witness, a monsignor who worked for the Secretariat of State whose statements led to a number of the indictments.

Only Cardinal Becciu of those indicted was present today among the magistrates and journalists in the courtroom.

At the October 5 hearing, the prosecutor basically admitted to procedural errors and, in a surprise move, instead of asking that the trial be declared null and void, admitted willingness to essentially start over by turning over the requested documents and video recordings.

The trial began on July 27..

At that first hearing, tribunal president Giuseppe Pignatone had ordered the consignment of all of Msgr. Alberto Perlasca’s recordings by August 10. However, the magistrates said that they would not comply with that order saying there was a risk that undue disclosure of the files audio and video that would have “irreparably compromised the right to privacy of people involved.”

Those recordings will now be turned over to the defense team. All remaining materials must be turned over by November 3 and the trial will resume on November 17.

A July 3, 2021 Vatican statement explained that, “The investigations, launched in July 2019 following a complaint by the Institute for the Works of Religion and the Office of the Auditor General, involved full collaboration between the Office of the Promoter and the Judicial Police Section of the Gendarmerie Corps. The investigations were also carried out in close and fruitful cooperation with the Public Prosecutor’s Office of Rome and the Economic and Financial Police Unit – G.I.C.E.F. of the Guardia di Finanza of Rome. The cooperation of the Public Prosecutor’s Offices of Milan, Bari, Trento, Cagliari and Sassari and their respective judicial police sections was also appreciated.

“Elements also emerged against Cardinal Giovanni Angelo Becciu, who is being prosecuted, pursuant to the law, for the crimes of embezzlement and abuse of office, also in collaboration, as well as subornation.”

Subornation is inducing someone to commit an unlawful act or to commit perjury.

In its summary of the tribunal statement today, L’Osservatore Romano wrote: “(tribunal president) Pignatone ordered the partial restitution of documents to the promoter of Justice for the defendants: Monsignor Mauro Carlino, for all the crimes ascribed; Enrico Crasso, for some crimes; Tommaso Di Ruzza, former rector of the Financial Information Authority (Aif), for some offenses; Raffaele Mincione, Nicola Squillace and Fabrizio Tirabassi for all crimes ascribed. For Cardinal Becciu, on the other hand, a new interrogation will be carried out limited to the offenses of subornation (an attempt to get retractions from Perlasca) and peculato (payments of amounts drawn from the funds of the Secretariat of State to the Spes Coop Social cooperative, represented legally by his brother Antonino).

This trial is the result of the investigations begun in 2019 concerning financial malfeasance linked to the purchase of a London property by the Vatican’s Secretariat of State. The purchase is reputed to have involved use of monies such as Peter’s Pence – intended only for papal charities – and that eventually led to enormous losses for the Vatican, including questionable fees paid to brokers for the various transactions.

VATICAN ABUSE TRIAL: COURT CLEARS FORMER ALTAR BOY AND EX-YOUTH SEMINARY RECTOR OF CRIMES

(CNA) – The Vatican tribunal cleared a priest who formerly served as a papal altar boy and the ex-rector of a Vatican-based youth seminary of crimes on Wednesday.

Defendant Fr. Gabriele Martinelli, 29, was acquitted of charges of violent sexual assault alleged to have taken place at the Pius X pre-seminary. The school’s former rector, 72-year-old Fr. Enrico Radice, was cleared of charges of cover-up.

The ruling came at the end of a year-long trial for alleged abuse at the Pius X pre-seminary, a residence in Vatican City for about a dozen boys aged 12 to 18 who serve at papal Masses and other liturgies in St. Peter’s Basilica and are considering the priesthood.

The Vatican announced in May that Pope Francis had decided to move the pre-seminary outside of Vatican City State beginning in September

At the last hearings on July 15-16, the Vatican’s prosecutor had asked judges to sentence Martinelli to eight years in prison, with a reduction to four years, and to sentence Radice to four years in jail.

Tribunal president Giuseppe Pignatone handed down the decision on Oct. 6. The court said that Martinelli could not be punished for crimes while he was a minor (in Vatican law, before his 16th birthday), clearing him of charges of abuse before Aug. 9, 2008.

For accusations of sexual violence from Aug. 9, 2008, to March 19, 2009 (the period before the alleged victim turned 16 years old and was no longer a legal minor), the court said the sexual acts “were proven in their materiality,” but lacked certainty that they were coerced.

In this case, the tribunal continued, the acts would constitute a different crime, “the corruption of minors,” but the statute of limitations had lapsed by four years when the lawsuit was filed in 2018.

The religious group Opera don Folci, which runs the pre-seminary and is overseen by the Diocese of Como, was a defendant in a civil suit regarding the abuse charges.

No decision in the civil suit was announced on Oct. 6.

Attorneys for the defendants, agreeing with the ruling on Oct. 6, said that “there were very many doubts” about whether the alleged crimes took place.

 

CARDINAL SARAH ENDORSES THE “NOTES” OF POPE BENEDICT, “MARTYR FOR THE TRUTH”

More piercingly insightful words from the ever clear and insightful Cardinal Robert Sarah, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of Sacraments, as he cites the clear teaching of Pope emeritus Benedict on the sex abuse crisis:

CARDINAL SARAH ENDORSES THE “NOTES” OF POPE BENEDICT, “MARTYR FOR THE TRUTH”

– Sandro Magister

Cardinal Robert Sarah took everyone by surprise on the evening of May 14 in Rome, in the auditorium of the cultural center of the church of St. Louis of the French, when everyone was expecting him to present his latest book, entitled “Le soir approche et déjà le jour baisse,” on the Church’s crisis of faith and the decline of the West.

SARAH

Because instead, the cardinal said right away, “this evening I will not talk about this book at all.” And the reason – he explained – is that “the fundamental ideas that I develop in it were illustrated, presented, and demonstrated brilliantly last April by Pope Benedict XVI in the ‘notes’ that he had composed in view of the summit of the presidents of the episcopal conferences on sexual abuse convened in Rome by Pope Francis from February 21 to 24.”

Cardinal Sarah continued:
“His reflection has revealed itself to be a true source of light in the night of faith that touches the whole Church. It has prompted reactions that at times have bordered on intellectual hysteria. I have felt personally struck by the wretchedness and coarseness of several comments. We must be convinced that once again the theologian Ratzinger, whose stature is that of a true father and doctor of the Church, has seen correctly and has touched the deepest heart of the Church’s crisis.

“I would therefore like us this evening to allow ourselves to be enlightened by this demanding and luminous thought of his. How could we summarize the thesis of Benedict XVI? Allow me to simply cite him: ‘Why has pedophilia reached such proportions? In the final analysis, the reason is the absence of God.’ This is the architectonic principle of the entire reflection of the pope emeritus. This is the conclusion of his long argumentation. This must be the starting point of every investigation of the scandal of sexual abuse committed by priests, in order to propose an effective solution.

“The crisis of pedophilia in the Church, the scandalous and distressing multiplication of abuse has one and only one ultimate cause: the absence of God. Benedict XVI summarizes it in another formula that is also clear. I quote: ‘It is only where faith no longer determines the actions of man that such crimes are possible.’

“The theological genius of Joseph Ratzinger here touches not only upon his experience as pastor of souls and as bishop, as father of his priests, but also upon his personal, spiritual, and mystical experience. He goes back to the fundamental cause, he allows us to understand what the only way can be for getting out of the frightening and humiliating scandal of pedophilia. The crisis of sexual abuse is the symptom of a deeper crisis: the crisis of faith, the crisis of the sense of God.”

TO READ FURTHER: http://magister.blogautore.espresso.repubblica.it/2019/05/20/cardinal-sarah-endorses-the-“notes”-of-pope-benedict-“martyr-for-the-truth”/

VATICAN INSIDER: A PAPAL DOCUMENT ON NORMS FOR SEX ABUSE CASES

VATICAN INSIDER: A PAPAL DOCUMENT ON NORMS FOR SEX ABUSE CASES

Welcome to another edition of Vatican Insider on this beautiful weekend when we celebrate Mother’s Day. Congratulations to all who are mothers and grandmothers and godmothers and everyone who is in some way a mother’s helper!

This weekend, instead of an interview, I have prepared a special for you on the just released Apostolic Letter by Pope Francis, a motu proprio on new norms for the entire church on sex abuse cases. The special presentation is taken from an explanation of the motu proprio by the editorial director of the Dicastery for Communications, a piece featured on the Vaticannews site. When you think of the topic of this papal letter – the sex abuse scandal that has convulsed the Church around the world – I felt it fitting to bring you this news. It is a very important document that I want everyone to know about.

Entitled “NEW NORMS FOR THE WHOLE CHURCH AGAINST THOSE WHO ABUSE OR COVER UP”, Pope Francis’ Motu proprio, “Vos estis lux mundi”, establishes new procedures for reporting abuse and violence, and ensures that Bishops and Religious Superiors are held accountable for their actions. It includes the obligation for clerics and religious to report abuse. Every Diocese must have a system that allows the public to submit reports easily.

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NEW NORMS FOR THE WHOLE CHURCH AGAINST THOSE WHO ABUSE OR COVER UP

This is not a long read, my friends, but a very important one….

NEW NORMS FOR THE WHOLE CHURCH AGAINST THOSE WHO ABUSE OR COVER UP

Pope Francis’ Motu proprio, “Vos estis lux mundi”, establishes new procedures for reporting abuse and violence, and ensures that Bishops and Religious Superiors are held accountable for their actions. It includes the obligation for clerics and religious to report abuse. Every Diocese must have a system that allows the public to submit reports easily.

Andrea Tornielli (editorial director for Dicastery for Communication: published on vaticannews)

“Vos estis lux mundi”. “You are the light of the world… Our Lord Jesus Christ calls every believer to be a shining example of virtue, integrity and holiness”. The Gospel of Matthew provides the title and first words of Pope Francis’ new Motu proprio dedicated to the fight against sexual abuse committed by clerics and religious, as well as the actions or omissions of Bishops and Religious Superiors that in any way interfere with or fail to investigate abuse.

The Pope recalls that “the crimes of sexual abuse offend Our Lord, cause physical, psychological and spiritual damage to the victims and harm the community of the faithful”, and mentions the special responsibility of the Successors of the Apostles to prevent these crimes. The document represents another result of the Meeting on the Protection of Minors held in the Vatican in February 2019. It establishes new procedural rules to combat sexual abuse and to ensure that Bishops and Religious Superiors are held accountable for their actions. It establishes universal norms, which apply to the whole Catholic Church.

An “office” for reporting in every diocese
Among the new indications given is the obligation for every Diocese in the world to set up, by June 2020, “one or more public, stable and easily accessible systems for submission of reports” concerning sexual abuse committed by clerics and religious, the use of child pornography, and coverups of the same abuse. The legislation does not specify what these “systems” consist of, because it leaves operational choices to the Diocese; and these may differ according to various cultures and local conditions. The idea is that anyone who has suffered abuse can have recourse to the local Church, while being assured they will be well received, protected from retaliation, and that their reports will be treated with the utmost seriousness.

The obligation to report
Another new indication concerns the obligation for all clerics, and all men and women religious, to “report promptly” all accusations of abuse of which they become aware, as well as any omissions and cover-ups in the management of cases of abuse, to ecclesiastical authorities. Though this obligation was formerly left up to individual consciences, it now becomes a universally established legal precept. The obligation as such is sanctioned for clerics and religious, but any layperson can, and is encouraged to, use the system to report violence and abuse to the competent ecclesiastical authority.

Not only child abuse
The document covers not only violence and abuse against children and vulnerable adults, but also sexual abuse and violence resulting from an abuse of authority as well. This includes cases of violence against religious by clerics, as well as abuse committed against adult seminarians or novices.

Dealing with cover-ups
One of the most important elements is the identification, as a specific category, of so-called cover-ups, defined as “actions or omissions intended to interfere with or avoid civil investigations or canonical investigations, whether administrative or penal, against a cleric or a religious regarding the delicts” of sexual abuse. This section refers to those who hold positions of particular responsibility in the Church, and who, instead of pursuing abuses committed by others, have hidden them, and have protected alleged offenders instead of protecting the victims.

The protection of vulnerable people
Vos estis lux mundi stresses the importance of protecting minors (anyone under 18) and vulnerable people. The definition of a “vulnerable person” is broadened to include “any person in a state of infirmity, physical or mental deficiency, or deprivation of personal liberty which, in fact, even occasionally, limits their ability to understand or to want to otherwise resist the offense”. In this respect, the new Motu proprio echoes recent Vatican legislation (CCXCVII of 26 March 2019).

Respecting the laws of states
The obligation to report to the local Ordinary or Religious Superior does not interfere with, or change, any other reporting obligation that may exist in respective countries’ legislation. In fact, the norms “apply without prejudice to the rights and obligations established in each place by state laws, particularly those concerning any reporting obligations to the competent civil authorities”.

The protection of victims and those reporting abuse
The sections dedicated to protecting those who come forward to report abuse are also significant. According to the provisions of the Motu proprio, someone reporting abuse cannot be subjected to “prejudice, retaliation or discrimination” because of what they report. The problem of victims who in the past have been told to keep silent is also addressed: these universal norms provide that “an obligation to keep silent may not be imposed on any person with regard to the contents of his or her report”. Obviously, the seal of confession remains absolute and inviolable and is in no way affected by this legislation. Vos estis lux mundi also states that victims and their families must be treated with dignity and respect and must receive appropriate spiritual, medical and psychological assistance.

The investigation of bishops
The Motu proprio regulates the investigation of Bishops, Cardinals, Religious Superiors and all those who lead a Diocese, or another particular Church, in various capacities and even temporarily. The rules apply not only in the case of these persons being investigated for having committed sexual abuse themselves, but also if they are accused of having “covered up”, or of failing to pursue abuses of which they were aware, and which it was their duty to address.

The role of the Metropolitan
There are new indications regarding the role of the Metropolitan Archbishop in preliminary investigations: if the accused individual is a Bishop, the Metropolitan receives a mandate from the Holy See to investigate. This strengthens his traditional role in the Church and indicates a desire to make the most of local resources with regard to investigations into Bishops. Every thirty days, the person in charge of the investigation sends the Holy See “a status report on the state of the investigation”, which “is to be completed within the term of ninety days” (extensions for “just reasons” are possible). This establishes specific timeframes and requires the Vatican Dicasteries concerned to act promptly.

Involvement of the laity
Citing the Canon Law article that stresses the important contribution of the laity, the norms of the Motu proprio provide that the Metropolitan, in conducting the investigations, can avail himself of the help of “qualified persons”, according to “the needs of the individual case and, in particular, taking into account the cooperation that can be offered by the lay faithful”. The Pope has repeatedly stated that the specializations and professional skills of the laity represent an important resource for the Church. The norms now provide that Episcopal Conferences and Dioceses may prepare lists of qualified persons willing to collaborate, but the ultimate responsibility for investigations remains with the Metropolitan.

Presumption of innocence
The principle of presumption of innocence of the person under investigation is reaffirmed. The accused will be informed of the investigation when requested to do so by the competent Dicastery. The accusation must be notified only if formal proceedings are opened. If deemed appropriate, in order to ensure the integrity of the investigation or of the evidence, this notification may be omitted during the preliminary stage.

Conclusion of the investigation
The Motu proprio does not modify the penalties for crimes committed, but it does establish the procedures for reporting and carrying out the preliminary investigation. At the conclusion of the investigation, the Metropolitan (or, in certain cases, the Bishop of the suffragan Diocese with the greatest seniority of appointment) forwards the results to the competent Vatican Dicastery. This completes his contribution. The competent Dicastery then proceeds “in accordance with the law provided for the specific case”, acting on the basis of already existing canonical norms. Based on the results of the preliminary investigation, the Holy See can immediately impose preventive and restrictive measures on the person under investigation.

Concrete commitment
With this new juridical instrument, called for by Pope Francis, the Catholic Church takes a further and incisive step in the prevention and fight against abuse, putting the emphasis on concrete actions. As the Pope writes at the beginning of the document: “In order that these phenomena, in all their forms, never happen again, a continuous and profound conversion of hearts is needed, attested by concrete and effective actions that involve everyone in the Church”.

MOTU PROPRIO ISSUED WITH NEW NORMS FOR SEX ABUSE CASES

MOTU PROPRIO ISSUED WITH NEW NORMS FOR SEX ABUSE CASES

The Holy See today issued the following communiqué on a new motu proprio from Pope Francis:

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.

(JFL: A further statement in English with specific details will follow)

CIVILTA CATTOLICA: BACKGROUND ON PROTECTION OF MINORS MEETING

CIVILTA CATTOLICA: BACKGROUND ON PROTECTION OF MINORS MEETING

At yesterday’s press conference to introduce and explain the upcoming February 21 to 24 meeting on the Protection of Minors, interim press office director Alessandro Gisotti suggested that two articles about the meeting written by Jesuit Fr. Federico Lombardi and published in the Jesuit Magazine, Civilta Cattolica, bear reading (or re-reading) in an effort to understand the clerical sex abuse scandal, how to protect minors and what went into organizing the February meeting:

Here is a link to the December 19, 2018 piece: PREPARING THE MEETING OF BISHOPS ON THE PROTECTION OF MINORS: https://laciviltacattolica.com/preparing-the-meeting-of-bishops-on-the-protection-of-minors/

And a link to the January 22, 2019 piece: CHILD PROTECTION FROM AWARENESS TO ENGAGEMENT: https://laciviltacattolica.com/child-protection-from-awareness-to-engagement/

“THE ABUSE OF CHILDREN IS WRONG ANYWHERE AND ANYTIME: THIS POINT IS NOT NEGOTIABLE” – DIGITAL PRESS KIT FOR THE MEETING ON THE PROTECTION OF MINORS

As I post this column, Pope Francis is attending the second of three days of meetings of the C9 Council of Cardinals who are his advisors. He usually attends both the morning and afternoon sessions but will preside, as previously scheduled, tomorrow’s weekly general audience.

Three of the original nine are no longer members: Cardinal George Pell, Cardinal Francisco Javier Errazuriz, and Cardinal Laurent Monsengwo. On December 12, 2018, the then papal spokesperson Greg Burke told journalists in a briefing that Pope Francis sent letters to each of them at the end of October to thank them for their service to the Council of Cardinals over the last five years.

No new members have been named.

“THE ABUSE OF CHILDREN IS WRONG ANYWHERE AND ANYTIME: THIS POINT IS NOT NEGOTIABLE”

Statement by Major Superiors of Religious Orders and Congregations prior to the Meeting on the Protection of Minors in Rome UISG / USG
#PBC2019

As the meeting on safeguarding and protection of minors begins we, the Major Superiors of Religious Orders and Congregations around the world, unite in support of this initiative of Pope Francis.

In our work as religious, we come across many situations where children are abused, neglected, maltreated and unwanted. We see child soldiers; the trafficking of minors; the sexual abuse of minors; the physical and emotional abuse of minors. They cry out to us. As adults, as Christians and as religious we want to work so that their lives are changed and that the situations in which they are brought up are improved.

The common theme across all of these issues is vulnerability. Children are the most vulnerable in our societies. Children who are poor, who are disabled or destitute or who are on the margins, who belong to lower social classes or castes may have a particular vulnerability. They are considered dispensable, to be used and abused.

Sexual abuse in the Church
This particular meeting focuses on the sexual abuse of children and the abuse of power and conscience by those in authority in the Church, especially bishops, priests and religious. It is a story stretching back for decades, a narrative of immense pain for those who have suffered this abuse.

We bow our heads in shame at the realisation that such abuse has taken place in our Congregations and Orders, and in our Church. We have learned that those who abuse deliberately hide their actions and are manipulative. By definition, it is difficult to uncover this abuse. Our shame is increased by our own lack of realisation of what has been happening. We acknowledge that when we look at Provinces and Regions in our Orders and Congregations across the world, that the response of those in authority has not been what it should have been. They failed to see warning signs or failed to take them seriously.

TO CONTINUE: http://www.internationalunionsuperiorsgeneral.org/statement-prior-meeting-protection-minors-rome-uisg-usg/

DIGITAL PRESS KIT FOR THE MEETING ON THE PROTECTION OF MINORS

At yesterday’s press conference, it was announced that a Digital Press Kit for members of the media had been created by the organizing committee specifically for the upcoming four-day meeting on the clerical sex abuse scandal and the Protection of Minors that opens Thursday, February 21.

It is an amazing volume of the type that would ordinarily be prepared as background material for a huge event in the life of the Vatican, the Roman Curia and the media – an event such as a conclave to elect a new Pope. It thus seems that this is how all of us – we in the media and you our readers, radio listeners and TV viewers – are to consider this week’s meeting.

As I browsed through the kit yesterday, and began a serious reading today, I came to realize why so much time had passed between the announcement of this meeting in September and the actual start of the meeting this month. This had been a huge criticism about the meeting when the dates were announced, and I had tweeted: “The house is on fire and the firemen will be here in February.”

The work of many people and a great deal of time went into this press kit: it was obviously not something that was done – or could have been done – overnight.

The same goes for the official website – http://www.pbc2019.org – and the twitter account @pbc2019

If you are truly interested in what this meeting intends to do, is doing and what it will achieve in reality, you’ll want to stay tuned to the website and twitter account, in addition to the vaticannews.va page where daily press briefings will be streamed.

The Digital Press Kit is divided into 9 chapters that embrace Background on the Meeting on the Protection of Minors, Official Curial or Papal Documents, Timeline of the Church’s Response both on the Local and Universal Levels, Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors and General background regarding how cases of sexual abuse of minors by a deacon, priest or bishop are processed in the Church.

The final chapters are titled Safeguarding Boards and Guidelines by country, Experts by Country, Articles and Interviews in various languages and A look at Child Abuse on the Global Level.

We read about the three themes for the first three days off meetings, themes desired by Pope Francis: 1) Responsibility, 2) Accountability, 3) Transparency. Each of these themes will be articulated in three presentations. Each presentation will focus on the theme as it relates to: the person of the bishop and his responsibilities; the relationship of a bishop with other bishops; the relationship of the bishops with the People of God and society. The presenters were chosen so that a variety of continents, cultures and situations in the Church could be represented.

Please click here to access a list of the presentations and the presenters: http://www.pbc2019.org/conference/presentations

http://www.pbc2019.prg is the pofficial website for the protection of minors meeting.

There will be a brief time for questions and answers at the end of each presentation. Then the participants will meet in their language groups to discuss the presentation(s). Each group will formulate a brief summary of their discussion to be shared with the assembly in the evening.