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Monday, April 12, 2010


VATICAN CITY, 12 APR 2010 (VIS) - Today the Vatican website, under the section called "Focus", published a guide to understanding the procedures of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on sexual abuse allegations towards minors.

Guide to Understanding Basic CDF Procedures concerning Sexual Abuse Allegations
The applicable law is the Motu Proprio "Sacramentorum sanctitatis tutela" (MP SST) of 30 April 2001 together with the 1983 Code of Canon Law. This is an introductory guide which may be helpful to lay persons and non-canonists.

A:  Preliminary Procedures

The local diocese investigates every allegation of sexual abuse of a minor by a cleric.
If the allegation has a semblance of truth the case is referred to the CDF.  The local bishop transmits all the necessary information to the CDF and expresses his opinion on the procedures to be followed and the measures to be adopted in the short and long term.

Civil law concerning reporting of crimes to the appropriate authorities should always be followed.

During the preliminary stage and until the case is concluded, the bishop may impose precautionary measures to safeguard the community, including the victims. Indeed, the local bishop always retains power to protect children by restricting the activities of any priest in his diocese.  This is part of his ordinary authority, which he is encouraged to exercise to whatever extent is necessary to assure that children do not come to harm, and this power can be exercised at the bishop's discretion before, during and after any canonical proceeding.

B: Procedures authorized by the CDF

The CDF studies the case presented by the local bishop and also asks for supplementary information where necessary.
The CDF has a number of options:

B1 Penal Processes

The CDF may authorize the local bishop to conduct a judicial penal trial before a local Church tribunal. Any appeal in such cases would eventually be lodged to a tribunal of the CDF.

The CDF may authorize the local bishop to conduct an administrative penal process before a delegate of the local bishop assisted by two assessors. The accused priest is called to respond to the accusations and to review the evidence.  The accused has a right to present recourse to the CDF against a decree condemning him to a canonical penalty.  The decision of the Cardinals members of the CDF is final.

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 question of damages can also be treated directly during these procedures.

B2 Cases referred directly 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 CDF 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.  The Holy Father grants these requests for the good of the Church ("pro bono Ecclesiae").

B3 Disciplinary Measures

In cases where the accused priest has admitted to his crimes and has accepted to live a life of prayer and penance, the CDF authorizes the local bishop to issue a decree prohibiting or restricting the public ministry of such a priest.  Such decrees are imposed through a penal precept which would entail a canonical penalty for a violation of the conditions of the decree, not excluding dismissal from the clerical state.  Administrative recourse to the CDF is possible against such decrees.  The decision of the CDF is final.

C. Revision of MP SST

For some time the CDF has undertaken a revision of some of the articles of "Motu Proprio Sacramentorum Sanctitatis tutela", in order to update the said Motu Proprio of 2001 in the light of special faculties granted to the CDF by Popes  John Paul II and Benedict XVI. The proposed modifications under discussion will not change the above-mentioned procedures (A, B1-B3).
CDF/                                    VIS 20100412 (720)   


  1. Thanks for posting this important explanation of the ecclesiastical guidelines. Let's hope that the local bishops refer every case to the CDF.

  2. You can find the German translation in my blog - eine deutsche Übersetzung finden Sie in meinem Blogbuch unter:




  3. The clarity given here is most useful. Thank you. The current attacks on the Holy See in the English-speaking media concern the situation pre 2001. Could you clarify the role of CDF before 2001?

  4. It is good to see this simplified text. Perhaps some in the media will actually use it as guide to see if the Church is doing what it says it will do. In any discussion it is important to speak to each other and not past each other.

  5. No, let's not just refer every case to the Congregation for Doctrine of the Faith, they are mandated reporters and MUST REPORT ANYONE SUSPECT OF ABUSE. PERIOD. END OF STORY. REPORT TO THE POLICE FIRST, THEN THE CHURCH.

  6. Who will enforce these guidelines? The Bishops do not have a good track record.

    There still appears to be some ambiguity concerning local authorities and Church Tribunals. The first step should always be to direct victims to law enforcement agencies. Once that is done than and only than should the Bishop begin any Church apparatus in dealing with this.

    Joe Murray
    Executive Director
    Rainbow Sash Movement

  7. Thank you for all of our hard work! God Bless you for your labors. I am so happy to be able to keep up with the Universal Church every day. I feel so conected.

  8. This is most welcome because it is clear; let us all hope and pray that ecclesiastical authorities recognise their duty to 'render unto Ceasar the things that are Ceasar's'!

  9. Anonymous - are you under the illusion that the civil authorities are the models of justice, etc.? Then you obvioulsy have never worked in the criminal justice system. Moreover, I have a bridge I am selling...

  10. It amazes me that excommunication (for a period of, say 2-3 years) is not among the penalties.

  11. I would have to agree, in principle, with Anonymous-- report anyone suspect of abuse to the civil authorities--period. The document should state this emphatically and not leave it vague or open to any interpretation. Now, what anonymous is saying, I think, begs the question. When is someone suspect? These guildines should come from the police. In other words, when would they say that one has enough to report? We need to forget that this or that man is a priest-- no special treatment or consideration-- good old boyism.

  12. GET REAL !


    From 'The Guardian' newspaper -

    The Vatican daily L'Osservatore Romano, described the rules as part of a "transparency drive" adopted by the Vatican. The document, it added, was based on the Motu Proprio, the 2001 Vatican ruling which ordered bishops to forward abuse cases to Rome.

    But one Vatican expert said the 2001 document gave no specific instructions on reporting to the police. "There is no similar sentence in the Motu Proprio," said John Allen, senior correspondent for the National Catholic Reporter. "The Vatican may say these guidelines make explicit what was always understood, but the truth is that for years abuse was not reported to the police."

    In Ireland, bishops reportedly understood the 2001 rules to mean they should not tell police about abuse.


  13. It is a bit difficult to get the horse back when it has bolted from the stable. I think these are tactics being used as damage control. I feel that there have been far too many cases of abuse worldwide to be able to say the Vatican was ignorant of what was happening. I feel that what happened was lack of control over the whole situation by a group of elderly men who were supposed to be able to deal with these situations, but did not have any type of expertise to do so. I think the church finds itself in a very embarrassing situation and as well a very serious one. It is sad really as there are so many good and dedicated priests who have kept their vows and are devoted to the spiritual well being of their communities. One of the Popes predecessors who has been canonized once said that the Devil would not attack the church from the outside, but would attack it from the inside, and I think his words have proven to be true. I think this has been the greatest threat to the faith of the people that the church has had to deal with. I remain confident that it will come through this period of darkness if this is the true church that Christ intended.

  14. Since the Roman Catholic church has come under intense attack due to sexual abuse of minors, it is good that the new guidelines to tackle abuse allegations is now put up for everyone to read. It must be emphasized though that the percentage of children abused, i.e. pedophilia, in small, but the number of minors abused is the largest. In the case of priests who have sexually abused only male minors (not children) it is reasonable to assume they are homosexuals. Pedophiles on the other hand, whether they abuse male or female children are not necessarily homosexuals. In the lay world, most men who abuse children, i.e. pedophiles are married or in relationship with adult women. The anger and outrage of minor male victims of sexual abuse may be due to the fact that they feel their sexual orientation was messed up as a result, at an age when the young are easily impressionable and need every help to form right values. It is foolish to accept the notion that minors are not influenced in their sexual behaviour and orientation when they are abused at an age when everything is in a flux. It may well be that female minors who were sexually abused by priests did not lodge complaints as males did because there was no room for their sexual orientation to be messed up. They might have felt a teenage crush for their abuser, and might have felt responsible for the sexual abuse, and may even not have considered it abuse at all. Contd...

  15. I am very glad to see the Vatican starting to take steps to put this issue into the past.

    I am an atheist/agnostic, but living in Canada, I naturally have many Catholic friends and I know how distressing this has been to them, their confused feelings of betrayal and loss.

    I realize my Catholic friends need their church renewed and cleansed so their faith and trust can be restored.

    I believe Pope Benedict and the cardinals can find a solution that will deal with the scandal, compensate victims, shield children from the paedophile priests of the past, and promptly remove any newly discovered paedophiles from any direct work with children.

    Putting the issue into the past necessarily involves confessing sins and abuses of recent decades, and taking action to ensure they do not recur.

    Confess what has happened in recent decades, get the scandal out and over with. This is preferable to letting the scandal come out country by country over many decades.

    Yes, dioceses will stand to loose money in civil lawsuits, but the survival of the Church depends less on money than on putting the scandal behind it.

    1. Past witnesses to child abuse, including abused children, should be released from the vows of silence and the threat of excommunication if they speak about their ordeal.

    2. The Church should open its files on paedophile priests of recent decades. As well as the confession necessary to put the scandal behind The Church, it is important known paedophiles from the past (including those who have returned to the laity) can be added to sex offender registries so children can be protected from them.

    3. I find this statement unclear: "Civil law concerning reporting of crimes to the appropriate authorities should always be followed." The way I read that, civil authorities will only be informed if some special law or court order compels it.

    The statement should say is civil authorities must always be informed of accusations of child abuse.

    I think The Church can put this scandal behind it. I don't think celibacy is an issue, so long as sufficient non-paedophile priests can be obtained so that any priests which do turn out to be paedophiles can be promptly returned to the laity.

    There should be no problem with The Church providing priests with independent defence attorneys for criminal trials.

    There should be no problem with The Church retaining paedophile priests in some capacity that will not expose children to them (administrative work, scholarly research, etc.).

    Good luck and best wishes. You have my sympathy in dealing with such a difficult and massive issue.

  16. This is what the Roman Catholic church could do to reduce sexual abuse crimes among clergy.
    1. Make it clear to clergy in training that a public vow of celibacy if made a mockery of, results in loss of respect for all the innocent clergy who are remaining faithful to their vows. To seek out another path in life if the vow of celibacy is difficult to keep.
    2. More righteousness is expected of a priest than a medical doctor. No medical doctor in her or his right mind would expect to be allowed to practice their profession if found guilty of abusing their power with patients. If the number of medical doctors who sexually abused their patients was four in a hundred, the public would quickly lose faith in the profession. Yet, the number of priests accused of sexual abuse of minors has been put down to four percent.
    3. The training for priesthood should include practical lessons on how to deal with laity with safeguards in place. A medical doctor who gets to examine males and females and children in the most intimate way, is appropriately trained, so as not to make every encounter an opportunity for sexual arousal.
    4. Can auricular confession be an Achilles heel in the Catholic Church? No other Christian denomination has it. Could not Confession be replaced with more intense teaching on how to examine one's conscience and ask Jesus for forgiveness, and a general absolution spoken at the beginning of each Mass? The time spent before the general absolution should be sufficiently long to allow for thorough examination of conscience and good guidance could be given.
    4. Instead of making laity priest dependent, they should be made Jesus Christ dependent. Laity should be encouraged to live in the presence of God every single moment of their lives. It should not be about reciting some sins to the priest.
    5. Ongoing and regular spiritual counseling for the laity should be offered by monks who are suitably trained and deeply spiritual. In that way the parish priest does not have too much power over the laity and their internal life, which should be open only to God.
    6. Teaching laity to become more and more Jesus Christ dependent makes them spiritually mature. Making laity like blind sheep may make them easier to manage, but it is also driving them out of churches when they have a chance. Protestant churches are offering a more Bible centered and Jesus Christ centered Christianity which is attracting Catholics in places where they have a choice of churches.
    7. It is not fair to put the priest in the place of Jesus Christ. Jesus never asked that of His disciples. The disciples of Jesus never acted as if they were Jesus Christ themselves. The priest should be the finger that points to Jesus Christ, the guide that leads laity to Jesus Christ.

  17. Revealing the measures to be taken in abusive cases reinforce trust between Clergy and laity

  18. Though I am pleased to see the beginnings of a more transparent approach to the management of reports of sexual abuse on the part of priests, I trust that this is only the beginning of a process which will put in place clear procedures.

    Further, I should like to sugggest that the second paragraph of the guidance under A.Preliminary Procedures should read:

    'Civil law concerning reporting of ALLEGED crimes to the appropriate CIVIL/SECULAR authorities should always be followed.'

    I sense a 'loop hole' in this guidance which will still allow the RC church to try to 'contain' and manage 'internally' this exceptionally complex and sensitive issue. The guidelines should made unequivocally clear that where an ALLEGATION of abuse on the part of a priest comes to light, the person responsible for safeguarding children will:

    a) Make an IMMEDIATE report to the secular agencies; and;

    b) Undertake an internal investigation, in line with ecclesiastical law/guidance,in a manner which will not compromise the work of the 'secular'/authorities/agencies or the individuals concerned (e.g. alleged victim and perpetrator).

    The leadership of the RC church needs to begin to demonstrate that it is capable of trusting other people; that it recognises its vulnerabilties and strengths and therefore recognises the need to work with both religious and so-called 'secular'organisations which are committed to safeguarding the well-being of children and other vulnerable people. By doing this, by being seen to embrace a meaningful partnership with civil and religious organisations, the leadership of the RC church will (in my opinion) begin to show some evidence of Christ's presence in this appalling mess. The years of trying to manage these complex situations 'internally' have been profoundly destructive to the institution of the RC church.

    Surely it is now time for Pope Benedict and those who advise him, to begin to show their vulnerability and need for God. Benedict preaches about recognising our need for God - about knowing ourselves to be vulnerable creatures who are ALWAYS in need of God's saving power. Perhaps it is time that he and his advisers started to demonstrate this in their responses to this issue. Currently the Vatican's response shows itself as profoundly arrogant and seems to suggest that God is on Benedict's side who will be 'vindicated'. This issue is not about the vindication of Benedict - it is about The Gospel. My message to Pope Benedict (for what it is worth) is this..... God is not just on your side..He is the God of all creation and my understanding of the Christian faith is that we all fail (even the Pope); that we are all in need of forgiveness; that we can all repent and that there is ALWAYS in God the possibility of RESURRECTION - Death has no sting!

  19. Coming from an Asian perspective, there is a serious taboo about reporting crimes committed by close family members (e.g. fathers, mothers, children). That is why in many instances, abuse within the family are not reported, even when other members of the family (including the feminine presence such as the mother) is aware. Just want to point this out to give texture to the cultural diversities the Catholic Church finds herself in.

    The gates of Hades will not overcome the Church, founded on the rock of St Peter.

  20. Anonymous, This is not only a Catholic problem. Please go to www.reformation.com or www.stopbaptistpredators.org or google "abuse" plus any denomination you like and you will find the same problems. It is also in every segment of society and every organization that deals with youth. In ALL of these instances, the crime of abuse is horrific. The Catholic Church has put in place more protections for youth than any other religious body or organization, and has been more forthcoming with figures and statistics than any other. The cases that are being put out in the media today to implicate Pope Benedict are ones that occured almost 20 years ago. Pope Benedict, before he was Pope, and since, has been the driving force behind the reforms that have taken place. He is not liked by the mainstream media for many reasons. He has taken a stand against relativism, abortion, gay marriage, euthanasia and made many enemies in doing so. The same media that is screaming about these abuse cases is constantly promoting a culture of death and moral bankruptcy. He has also alienated some within the Church because of his orthodoxy, again standing firm on the moral law and the Church's liturgical practice. He is not in need of education about the Love of God, the power of the Death and Resurrection of Jesus, or His boundless Mercy. Let us pray that abuse will be confronted and stopped wherever it may be found.

  21. Just perhaps,....they wish to try to destroy the Pope's trustworthiness as moral authority and voice of Christ in the modern secular world in the mind of the public, for they don't want him to influence events nor interfere with their plans to have yet another just war in the mideast against another little country for the finance/energy/military-industrial-complex gang.

    They wish to use this as a ruse, to tie up his time, while and distract him away from their self announced saber rattled intentions?

    They know damned well that Pope Benedict is a holy, good and wise man, and so they fear he will point out that such an attack on yet another little state by a superstate in the middleast is not a 'just war', but a war of aggression by quasi-neofascist corporatavist-state interests, and not a necessary war of self defense, needed by both international law and canon law theology as to be termed a just war.

    They don't give a damned about children, all they care about is their own selves and their stock portfolios. Note Exxon and Shell finally got the oil feilds they desired last year, after some say up to one million Iraquis died, as well as over 5000,mostly young US troops also perished and many more wounded and maimed for life.

    These same people own most of the main stream media. They don't wish the Pope to point out the obvious; how damned corrupt they are!

    I am just a layperson, it's just my present reflexions, I really wish someone would prove my working- thoughts in progress, wrong, but I am afraid it's really so.

    There will not be pedaster abuse, nor slander of charachter, nor ethnic stereotyping hate-propaganda by the mass-media allowed to be in Heaven; The New Jerusalem, I believe St. Paul indicates to us, in his letters. Nor greedy war-mongering by heartless sociopaths. It will all be over; the evil hell has inspired on Earth, since satan assured Eve; ' surely,..ye shall not die.'

    Pope Benedict, please keep your eyes focused on Christ, who is in the center of the storm at it's vortex, for than like Peter you will not sink into the water, for Christ Jesus is Our Saviour, I only echo back to you now surrounded by swirls of accusations and rumours, to remind you of what I am sure you know already better than we, and that to assure you we know what is going on; spirtual warfare between Christ and satan. Christ is The Infinite and Eternal one, we have a battle, but I think for God, there is no match in scale, no great effort to defeat satan, and yet this: the great mystery of calvary!? ( and the great suffering endured to pay the full price of our redemption.)

    Please keep talking, writing more beautiful encyclicals and get right in their face with the truth with the power of God's Holy Spirit, for who knows maybe some of them will also repent and come to their senses, and some war and suffering can be prevented. (?)

    I better shut up now, I am not San Juan de la Cruz, exactly, that I know, but how I wish I could email chat with him in the other dimenension of the afterlife state where he is now,... I have so many questions. Funny, he ended up in jail a few times too accused of things,....what a man of love, like St. Francis, I wonder if there still are saints, this day in the world,..only God knows of and in the least likely of places, and or ages, ect.

  22. If the Catholic Church were not the strong body that [it is], non-Catholics and the Media would not be so hostile in their own attacks of the Catholic Church on this issue. This is a problem which exists in many denominations; however, with the Catholic Church being the large and (enormous) recognisable body that [it is] globally, it is easy to "target" the Catholic Church, given the validity of the statement just mentioned.

    Where the fault in reporting on this issue continually lies is when it is exploited to the point of no longer being an honest attempt to report only on the issue itself, and not single out the Catholic Church as the only entity in which this resides.

    The present Pope is a very brilliant man, and without uncertainty, a “Theological Genius”; perhaps the issue lies within the way the Popes Advisors wish for him to respond to this particular issue, but in my opinion, he is very passive. Biblically speaking, I do not think that his predecessor St. Peter, would have at all handled the situation this way, had it reached the point it has today, at his own particular point in time. The entire world is not Catholic; so how could one expect CIVIL/SECULAR Law to only apply to those that are not.

    The Bishops should also be held much more accountable as they presently are. The Catholic Church is not going to be usurped by CIVIL/SECULAR Law by turning all of these cases over directly to them, as very well they should be.

    For the clerics who are committing these offenses, they continue to place the Catholic Church in a very weak position (which refers not only to the Catholic Church, but to all denominations) which is not the purpose of Christ handing Peter the keys (S.Matthew Ch. XVI, vs. 18,19*).

    *And I say also vnto thee, that thou art Peter, and vpon this rocke I will build my Church : and the gates of hell shall not preuaile against it. And I will giue vnto thee the keyes of the kingdome of heauen : and whatsoeuer thou shalt bind on earth, shall be bound in heauen : whatsoeuer thou shal loose on earth, shall be loosed in heauen.

  23. What if the bishop is the pedophilian? What if the he is the head of the congregation? What should be done?
    Please let the world know that the pedophilian priests are all gays - this is not an opinion, it is statistics. Please show the world the statistics.

  24. Why is not the first procedure/first action in the above guideline listed as - call the Police?
    The church needs to place any allegation in the hands of an independent investigating authority in the first instance. Religious institutions, especially the Catholic church is, quite rightly percieved more and more as an evil entity and will always be that way unless their priority is focused on transparency of process, human rights and the victim, rather than the perpetrator. After all, who in the church ensures the initial church investigator is not the perpetrator?

  25. the gates of death "media" can never overcome the church.other organisations are doing worse things. this attack against the Church will yield no results.the world wants the Church to relax its stance on certain teachings especially the use of contraceptives, homosexuality and suffering. the church has really been a torn in the flesh of the perpetrators of these acts which incur the displeasure of God. however priests should also be careful with their relationships since there is no smoke without fire.


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