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Spotlight Report

Comparing the revised abuse policy to the original

On the left is the original abuse policy drawn up by US Catholic bishops in June. On the right is the new policy, revised by a special commission of US cardinals and Vatican officials.

   
 Original policy
 Revised policy
   
Essential Norms for Diocesan/Eparchial Policies Dealing with Allegations of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Priests or Deacons

Preamble

On June 14, 2002, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops approved a Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People. The charter addresses the Church's commitment to deal appropriately and effectively with cases of sexual abuse of minors by priests, deacons, and other church personnel (i.e., employees and volunteers). The bishops of the United States have promised to reach out to those who have been sexually abused as minors by anyone serving the Church in ministry, employment, or a volunteer position, whether the sexual abuse was recent or occurred many years ago. They stated that they would be as open as possible with the people in parishes and communities about instances of sexual abuse of minors, with respect always for the privacy and the reputation of the individuals involved. They have committed themselves to the pastoral and spiritual care and emotional well-being of those who have been sexually abused and of their families.

Essential Norms for Diocesan/Eparchial Policies Dealing with Allegations of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Priests or Deacons

Preamble

On June 14, 2002, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops approved a Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People. The charter addresses the Church's commitment to deal appropriately and effectively with cases of sexual abuse of minors by priests, deacons, and other church personnel (i.e., employees and volunteers). The bishops of the United States have promised to reach out to those who have been sexually abused as minors by anyone serving the Church in ministry, employment, or a volunteer position, whether the sexual abuse was recent or occurred many years ago. They stated that they would be as open as possible with the people in parishes and communities about instances of sexual abuse of minors, with respect always for the privacy and the reputation of the individuals involved. They have committed themselves to the pastoral and spiritual care and emotional well-being of those who have been sexually abused and of their families.

   

In addition, the bishops will work with parents, civil authorities, educators, and various organizations in the community to make and maintain the safest environment for minors. In the same way, the bishops have pledged to evaluate the background of seminary applicants as well as all church personnel, who have responsibility for the care and supervision of children and young people.

In addition, the bishops will work with parents, civil authorities, educators, and various organizations in the community to make and maintain the safest environment for minors. In the same way, the bishops have pledged to evaluate the background of seminary applicants as well as all church personnel who have responsibility for the care and supervision of children and young people.
   

Therefore, to ensure that each diocese/eparchy in the United States of America will have procedures in place to respond promptly to all allegations of sexual abuse of minors, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops decrees these norms for diocesan/eparchial policies dealing with allegations of sexual abuse of minors by priests, deacons, or other church personnel.

Therefore, to ensure that each diocese/eparchy in the United States of America will have procedures in place to respond promptly to all allegations of sexual abuse of minors, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops decrees these norms for diocesan/eparchial policies dealing with allegations of sexual abuse of minors by diocesan and religious priests or deacons.1 These norms are complementary to the universal law of the Church, which has traditionally considered the sexual abuse of minors a grave delict and punishes the offender with penalties, not excluding dismissal from the clerical state if the case so warrants.
   

[Preamble for June Norms ends here – following is the definition of sexual abuse according to the Charter:]

Cf. c. 1395, §2. Notice that a sexual offense violative of §2 need not be a complete act of intercourse, nor should the term necessarily be equated with the definitions of sexual abuse or other crimes in civil law. "Sexual abuse [includes] contacts or interactions between a child and an adult when the child is being used as an object of sexual gratification for the adult. A child is abused whether or not this activity involves explicit force, whether or not it involves genital or physical contact, whether or not it is initiated by the child, and whether or not there is discernible harmful outcome" (Canadian Conference of Bishops, From Pain to Hope, 1992, p. 20). If there is any doubt about whether a specific act fulfills this definition, the writings of recognized moral theologians should be consulted and, if necessary, the opinion of a recognized expert shall be obtained (Canonical Delicts Involving Sexual Misconduct and Dismissal from the Clerical State, 1995, p. 6). We also note that diocesan/eparchial policies must be in accord with the civil law.


Sexual abuse of a minor includes sexual molestation or sexual exploitation of a minor and other behavior by which an adult uses a minor as an object of sexual gratification. Sexual abuse has been defined by different civil authorities in various ways, and these norms do not adopt any particular definition provided in civil law. Rather, the transgressions in question relate to obligations arising from divine commands regarding human sexual interaction as conveyed to us by the sixth commandment of the Decalogue. Thus, the norm to be considered in assessing an allegation of sexual abuse of a minor is whether conduct or interaction with a minor qualifies as an external, objectively grave violation of the sixth Commandment (Canonical Delicts Involving Sexual Misconduct and Dismissal from the Clerical State, USCC, 1995, p. 6). A canonical offence against the sixth commandment of the Decalogue (c. 1395, §2) need not be a complete act of intercourse. Nor, to be objectively grave, does an act need to involve force, physical contact, or a discernible harmful outcome. Moreover, "imputability [moral responsibility] for a canonical offense is presumed upon external violation…unless it is otherwise apparent." (c. 1321, §3). Cf. cc 1322-27.2
   
Norms

1. These norms, after approval by the Apostolic See, constitute particular law for all the dioceses/eparchies of the United States of America. Two years after recognitio has been received, these norms will be evaluated.

Norms

1. Having received the recognitio of the Apostolic See on ______, 2002, and having been legitimately promulgated in accordance with the practice of this Episcopal Conference on _____, 2002, these Norms constitute particular law for all the dioceses/eparchies of the United States of America. Two years after recognitio has been received, these norms will be evaluated by the plenary assembly of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

   

2. Each diocese/eparchy will have a written policy on the sexual abuse of minors by priests, deacons, or other church personnel. A copy of this policy will be filed with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops within three months of the effective date of these norms. Copies of any eventual revisions of the written diocesan/eparchial policy are also to be filed with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops within three months of such modifications.

2. Each diocese/eparchy will have a written policy on the sexual abuse of minors by priests and deacons, as well as by other Church personnel. This policy is to comply fully with, and is to specify in more detail, the steps to be taken in implementing the requirements of canon law, particularly canons 1717-1719. A copy of this policy will be filed with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops within three months of the effective date of these norms. Copies of any eventual revisions of the written diocesan/eparchial policy are also to be filed with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops within three months of such modifications.
   

3. Each diocese/eparchy will designate a competent assistance coordinator to aid in the immediate pastoral care of persons who claim to have been sexually abused when they were minors by priests, deacons, or other church personnel.

3. Each diocese/eparchy will designate a competent person to coordinate assistance for the immediate pastoral care of persons who claim to have been sexually abused when they were minors by priests or deacons.
   

4. To assist the diocesan/eparchial bishop in his work, each diocese/eparchy will have a review board whose functions include

4. To assist diocesan/eparchial bishops, each diocese/eparchy will also have a review board which will function as a confidential consultative body to the bishop/eparch in discharging his responsibilities. The functions of this board may include:
   

A. The assessment of allegations of sexual abuse of minors by priests, deacons, and other church personnel in order to advise the diocesan/eparchial bishop on whether or not the allegations appear to be credible; the assessment will be communicated to the victim and accused; the board can act both retrospectively and prospectively on these matters;

A. advising the diocesan bishop/eparch in his assessment of allegations of sexual abuse of minors and in his determination of suitability for ministry;
   

B. The review of the diocesan/eparchial policy and procedures for dealing with these allegations at least every two years in order to recommend to the diocesan/eparchial bishop any modifications, if appropriate; and

B. reviewing diocesan/eparchial policies for dealing with sexual abuse of minors; and
   

C. The recommendation concerning fitness for ministry in particular cases.

C. offering advice on all aspects of these cases, whether retrospectively or prospectively.
   

5. The review board, established by the diocesan/eparchial bishop, will be composed of at least five persons of outstanding integrity and good judgment. The majority of the review board members will be lay persons who are not in the employ of the diocese/eparchy; but at least one member should be a priest, and at least one member should have particular expertise in the treatment of the sexual abuse of minors. The members will be appointed for a term of five years, which can be renewed.

5. The review board, established by the diocesan/eparchial bishop, will be composed of at least five persons of outstanding integrity and good judgment in full communion with the Church. The majority of the review board members will be lay persons who are not in the employ of the diocese/eparchy; but at least one member should be a priest who is an experienced and respected pastor of the diocese/eparchy in question, and at least one member should have particular expertise in the treatment of the sexual abuse of minors. The members will be appointed for a term of five years, which can be renewed. It is desirable that the Promoter of Justice participate in the meetings of the review board.
   

6. Each province will establish an appellate review board, to be composed of at least five persons of outstanding integrity and good judgment. The majority of the members will be lay persons; but at least one member should be a bishop, and at least one member should be a canon lawyer. The appellate review board's function will be to offer—upon request by the bishop, the alleged victim, or the accused—its advice to the diocesan/eparchial bishop on the case (cf. norm 4A). The request must be made within fifteen (15) days after the alleged victim or the accused has been notified of the assessment of the initial review board. Within sixty (60) days of its receiving the request, the appellate review board's advice will be communicated to those involved.

[Norm 6 of June Essential Norms omitted in Revised Norms]
   

7. When a credible allegation of sexual abuse of a minor by priests, deacons, or other church personnel is made, the alleged offender will be relieved of any ecclesiastical ministry or function. An investigation in harmony with canon law will promptly commence. The accused will be encouraged to retain the assistance of civil and canonical counsel and will be promptly notified of the preliminary findings of the investigation.

6. When an allegation of sexual abuse of a minor by a priest or deacon is received, a preliminary investigation in harmony with canon law will be initiated and conducted promptly and objectively (c. 1717). All appropriate steps shall be taken to protect the reputation of the accused during the investigation. The accused will be encouraged to retain the assistance of civil and canonical counsel and will be promptly notified of the results of the investigation. When there is sufficient evidence that sexual abuse of a minor has occurred, the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith shall be notified. The bishop/eparch shall then apply the precautionary measures mentioned in canon 1722—i.e., remove the accused from the sacred ministry or from any ecclesiastical office or function, impose or prohibit residence in a given place or territory, and prohibit public participation in the Most Holy Eucharist pending the outcome of the process.
   

8. If the credible allegation of sexual abuse of a minor involves a priest or deacon, the ordinary/hierarch will ask him to undergo appropriate medical and psychological evaluation and intervention, if possible.

7. The alleged offender may be requested to seek, and may be urged voluntarily to comply with, an appropriate medical and psychological evaluation at a facility mutually acceptable to the diocese/eparchy and to the accused.
   

9. Where sexual abuse by a priest or deacon is admitted or is established after an appropriate investigation in accord with canon law, the following will pertain:

A. Diocesan/eparchial policy will provide that for even a single act of sexual abuse of a minor-past, present, or future-the offending priest or deacon will be permanently removed from ministry.

8. When even a single act of sexual abuse by a priest or deacon is admitted or is established after an appropriate process in accord with canon law, the offending priest or deacon will be removed permanently from ecclesiastical ministry, not excluding dismissal from the clerical state, if the case so warrants. (c. 1395, 2).3
   

B. In every case, the processes provided for in canon law must be observed, and the various provisions of canon law must be considered (cf. Canonical Delicts Involving Sexual Misconduct and Dismissal from the Clerical State, 1995; Letter from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, May 18, 2001). These provisions may include a request by the priest or deacon for dispensation from the obligations of holy orders and the loss of the clerical state, or a request by his diocesan/eparchial bishop for dismissal from the clerical state even without the consent of the priests or deacons. For the sake of due process, the accused is to be encouraged to retain the assistance of civil and canonical counsel. When necessary, the diocese/eparchy will supply canonical counsel to a priest.

A. In every case involving canonical penalties, the processes provided for in canon law must be observed, and the various provisions of canon law must be considered. (cf. Canonical Delicts Involving Sexual Misconduct and Dismissal from the Clerical State, 1995; Letter from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, May 18, 2001). Unless the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, having been notified, calls the case to itself because of special circumstances, it will direct the diocesan bishop/eparch to proceed. (Article 13, "Procedural Norms" for Motu proprio Sacramentorum sanctitatis tutela, AAS, 93, 2001, p. 787). If the case would otherwise be barred by prescription, because sexual abuse of a minor is a grave offense, the bishop/eparch shall apply to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith for a derogation from the prescription, while indicating appropriate pastoral reasons. For the sake of due process, the accused is to be encouraged to retain the assistance of civil and canonical counsel. When necessary, the diocese/eparchy will supply canonical counsel to a priest. The provisions of canon 1722 shall be implemented during the pendency of the penal process, in accord with Article 15 of this motu proprio.
   

C. If the penalty of dismissal from the clerical state has not been applied (e.g., for reasons of advanced age or infirmity), the offender is to lead a life of prayer and penance. He will not be permitted to celebrate Mass publicly, to wear clerical garb, or to present himself publicly as a priest.

B. If the penalty of dismissal from the clerical state has not been applied (e.g., for reasons of advanced age or infirmity), the offender ought to lead a life of prayer and penance. He will not be permitted to celebrate Mass publicly or to administer the sacraments. He is to be instructed not to wear clerical garb, or to present himself publicly as a priest.
   

[In revised norms, norm 9 constitutes an additional norm]

9. At all times, the diocesan bishop/eparch has the executive power of governance, through an administrative act, to remove an offending cleric from office, to remove or restrict his faculties, and to limit his exercise of priestly ministry.4 Because sexual abuse of a minor is a crime in all jurisdictions in the United States, for the sake of the common good and observing the provisions of canon law, the diocesan bishop/eparch shall exercise this power of governance to ensure that any priest who has committed even one act of sexual abuse of a minor as described above shall not continue in active ministry.5
   

[In revised norms, norm 10 constitutes an additional norm]

10. The priest or deacon may at any time request a dispensation from the obligations of the clerical state. In exceptional cases, the bishop/eparch may request of the Holy Father the dismissal of the priest or deacon from the clerical state ex officio, even without the consent of the priest or deacon.
   

10. The diocese/eparchy will report to the public authorities any allegation (unless canonically privileged) of sexual abuse of a person who is currently a minor and will cooperate in their investigation. It will cooperate with public authorities about reporting in cases when the person alleged to have been abused is no longer a minor. In every instance, the diocese/eparchy will advise and support a person's right to make a report to public authorities.

11. The diocese/eparchy will comply with all applicable civil laws with respect to the reporting of allegations of sexual abuse of minors to civil authorities and will cooperate in their investigation. In every instance, the diocese/eparchy will advise and support a person's right to make a report to public authorities.6
   

11. Before a priest or deacon is proposed to another diocese/eparchy for assignment, transfer, or residence, if there is anything in his background to indicate that he would be a danger to children or young people, an accurate and complete description of the priest's or deacon's record will be forwarded by his ordinary/hierarch to the local ordinary/hierarch of his new residence. This holds even if the priest or deacon will only reside in the local community of an institute of consecrated life or society of apostolic life (or, in the Eastern Churches, as a monk or other religious, in a society of common life according to the manner of religious, in a secular institute, or in another form of consecrated life or society of apostolic life).

12. No priest or deacon who has committed an act of sexual abuse of a minor may be transferred for ministerial assignment to another diocese/eparchy or religious province. Before a priest or deacon can be transferred for residence to another diocese/eparchy or religious province, his bishop/eparch or religious ordinary shall forward in a confidential manner to the local bishop/eparch and religious ordinary (if applicable) of the proposed place of residence any and all information concerning any act of sexual abuse of a minor and any other information indicating that he has been or may be a danger to children or young people. This shall apply even if the priest or deacon will reside in the local community of an institute of consecrated life or society of apostolic life (or, in the Eastern Churches, as a monk or other religious, in a society of common life according to the manner of religious, in a secular institute, or in another form of consecrated life or society of apostolic life). Every bishop/eparch or religious ordinary who receives a priest or deacon from outside his jurisdiction will obtain the necessary information regarding any past act of sexual abuse of a minor by the priest or deacon in question.
   

12. Care will always be taken to protect the rights of all parties involved, particularly those of the person claiming to have been sexually abused and the person against whom the charge has been made. When the accusation has proved to be unfounded, every step possible will be taken to restore the good name of the person falsely accused.

13. Care will always be taken to protect the rights of all parties involved, particularly those of the person claiming to have been sexually abused and the person against whom the charge has been made. When an accusation has proved to be unfounded, every step possible will be taken to restore the good name of the person falsely accused.
   

13. These norms will become particular law after recognitio is received from the Holy See.



Footnotes to Revised Norms

1 In applying these Norms to religious priests and deacons, the term "religious ordinary" shall be substituted for the term "bishop/eparch" mutatis mutandis.
2 If there is any doubt whether a specific act qualifies as an external, objectively grave violation, the writings of recognized moral theologians should be consulted and the opinions of recognized experts should be appropriately obtained (Canonical Delicts, p. 6). Ultimately, it is the responsibility of the diocesan bishop/eparch, with the advice of a qualified review board, to determine the gravity of the alleged act.
3 Removal from ministry is required whether or not the cleric is diagnosed by qualified experts as a pedophile or as suffering from a related sexual disorder which requires professional treatment.
4 See canons 35-58, 149, 157, 187-189, 192-195, 277 § 3, 381, 383, 391, 1348, 1740-1747.
5 The diocesan bishop/eparch may exercise his executive power of governance to take one or more of the following administrative actions: (cc. 381, 129ff):

  1. He may request that the accused freely resign from any currently held ecclesiastical office (cc. 187-189).
  2. Should the accused decline to resign and should the diocesan bishop/eparch judge the accused to be truly not suitable (c. 149, §1) at this time for holding an office previously freely conferred (c. 157), then he may remove that person from office observing the required canonical procedures (cc. 192-195, 1740-1747).
  3. For a cleric who holds no office in the diocese/eparchy, any previously delegated faculties may be administratively removed (c. 391, §1 and 142, §1), while any de lege faculties may be removed or restricted by the competent authority as provided in law (e.g., c. 764).
  4. The diocesan bishop/eparch may also judge that circumstances surrounding a particular case constitute the just and reasonable cause for a priest to celebrate the Eucharist with no member of the faithful present (c. 906), and he may strongly urge the priest not to do so and not to administer the sacraments for the good of the Church and for his own good.
  5. Depending on the gravity of the case, the diocesan bishop/eparch may also dispense (cc.85-88) the cleric from the obligation of wearing clerical attire (c. 284) and may urge that he not do so for the good of the Church and for his own good.
These administrative actions shall be taken in writing and by means of decrees (cc. 47-58) so that the cleric affected is afforded the opportunity of recourse against them in accord with canon law (cc. 1734 ff).
6 The necessary observance of the canonical norms internal to the Church is not intended in any way to hinder the course of any civil action that may be operative. At the same time, the Church reaffirms her right to enact legislation binding on all her members concerning the ecclesiastical dimensions of the delict of sexual abuse of minors.


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