Vatican Offers Guide for Sex Abuse Reports

Procedures Explained for Laity, Non-Canonists

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VATICAN CITY, APRIL 12, 2010 ( With a 14-paragraph guideline, the Vatican is seeking to clarify the procedures it follows when a priest is accused of sexual abuse.

The guideline was posted on the Vatican’s (Web site) today.

A report from Vatican Radio explained that the guide is not a new document, but simply a summary of procedures that have already been defined. “It can be an aid for laypeople and those who are not canon lawyers,” Vatican Radio noted.

In the midst of allegations from the media that the Church has sought to cover up these scandals, the document affirms clearly: “Civil law concerning reporting of crimes to the appropriate authorities should always be followed.”

It also clarifies: “Should the cleric be judged guilty, both judicial and administrative penal processes can condemn a cleric to a number of canonical penalties, the most serious of which is dismissal from the clerical state.”

The document further notes when cases are referred to the Holy Father: “In very grave cases where a civil criminal trial has found the cleric guilty of sexual abuse of minors or where the evidence is overwhelming, the [Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith] may choose to take the case directly to the Holy Father with the request that the Pope issue a decree of «ex officio» dismissal from the clerical state. There is no canonical remedy against such a papal decree.

“The CDF also brings to the Holy Father requests by accused priests who, cognizant of their crimes, ask to be dispensed from the obligation of the priesthood and want to return to the lay state.”

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