New Vatican sex abuse rules viewed as bizarre, not substantive enough
The newly revised in-house rules on sexual abuse that were issued by the Vatican recently have been viewed by some as falling short and by others as bizarre.
The rules were the Vatican’s response to a worldwide clerical sex abuse scandal that even knocked on the door of Pope Benedict XVI concerning an accusation of intervention in a cover up when he was a Vatican official in the 1990s, the Daily Mail said.
The revisions target, among others, priests who use child pornography materials, and those who molest children and mentally disabled adults, the AP said.
However there are critics who feel that the revisions are not substantive enough.
They do not require bishops to inform the police of clergy sexual abuse, and do not punish bishops who conceal the acts of clerical abusers, the AP said.
Advocates for abuse victims felt that stronger measures should have been taken against bishops who collude with erring priests, the AP said.
Church history professor Christopher Bellitto of Kean University, New Jersey said the rules do not say anything about bishops who deal with abusers by sending them to new assignments in different locations.
“The crime and sin of transferring pedophiles without punishing them must be laid fully on bishops’ doorsteps,” the National Post reported.
Of note too was that there was nothing about the church collaborating with the law. Victim Andrew Madden from Dublin said, “The first thing the Church should be doing is reporting crimes to civil authorities. That’s far more important than deciding whether a criminal priest should be defrocked or not. The Church’s internal rules are no more important than the rules of your local golf club,” the Daily Mail said.
One bizarre aspect of the rules was the placement of making a woman a priest on par with child abuse in terms of gravity of sin and error. Victims’ groups did not agree and said criminal offenses that are committed against children are far weightier, the Daily Mail said.
Under the new rules priests can be excommunicated if they sexually abuse mentally handicapped adults, commit acts of pedophilia, possess, obtain or distribute child pornography, or ordain women priests, the Daily Mail said.
On the positive side associate professor Robert Ventresca of the University of Western Ontario said that it is a good change that laity will be included in church trials of alleged abusers. Ventresca called this a historical move noting that it detracts from the exclusionary culture of the church and brings new sensibilities to the church world, the National Post said.
Ventresca said, “The letter of the law is often not enough; you also have to look at the culture. That’s why I think bringing in lay people is so important. This could bring a new spirit in which we move beyond the closed inner circle of the church,” the National Post reported.