~by Brian Roewe, National Catholic Reporter
Bishops welcomed it. Clergy abuse survivors said it didn’t go far enough. Other Catholics saw it as a necessary, but not final, step.
Those were prevailing initial reactions to new norms issued Thursday by Pope Francis for addressing clergy sexual abuse. While many acknowledged the apostolic letter Vos estis lux mundi (“You are the light of the world”) moved the church forward in addressing a scandal that has besieged the church more than three decades, reaching a new peak in the past year, there remained a sense the document was not sufficient alone and failed to address some core causes of the crisis.
“This is an important step forward for Catholics around the globe, particularly for abuse victims/survivors and their families,” Kim Smolik, CEO of Leadership Roundtable, said in a statement. “While it does not yet address the breadth of culture change necessary to address the root causes of the crises of abuse and leadership failures, it does provide the foundation for bishop conferences to create meaningful accountability policies for their region.”
The apostolic letter from Francis, issued motu proprio (on his own initiative), established new church laws concerning the reporting of sexual abuse and misconduct and how investigations are conducted.
It mandates new procedures requiring all priests and members of religious orders to report allegations of sexual abuse or its cover up to their bishop or superior. It establishes protections for those reporting abuse or cover-up allegations, and blocks attempts to silence accusers from speaking about their accusations. It directs archbishops to oversee investigations of other bishops within their ecclesiastical provinces, and sets a timeline of 90 days for reports to be made to the Vatican for final determination. While it encourages lay involvement in such investigations, it does not obligate it.
The new norms become effective June 1 and directs all dioceses worldwide within a year to establish reporting and investigating procedures. They represent the second set of laws on abuse issued by Francis since he held a first-of-its-kind summit in February, when leaders of episcopal conferences around the world came to the Vatican to address the issue of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church.
In a series of tweets, Newark, New Jersey Cardinal Joseph Tobin said that with the latest measures “Pope Francis reminds us that ‘care of persons’ must be a bishop’s primary consideration” and that he “makes it clear that transparency and accountability are essential to the identify and miss
ion of our Church.”
While acknowledging some signs of improvement, abuse survivors and their advocates said the new measures did not go far enough. Specifically, they criticized the document for not creating a universal zero-tolerance policy for child sexual abuse or its cover-up — keeping the investigation process internal and not establishing clear penalties for those failing to report abuse or engaged in its cover-up.
“A lack of policies or procedures has never been the main problem in the clergy sex abuse scandal,” the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) said in a statement. “Rather, it has been a lack of accountability for hierarchs who conceal sex crimes and a deficit of courage and willingness to take immediate, decisive action on those who have enabled those crimes to occur.”
Peter Isley, a longtime SNAP leader and founding member of the global group Ending Clergy Abuse, said no zero-tolerance policy was perhaps the most glaring omission.
BishopAccountability.org, which has tracked the clergy abuse crisis since the early 2000s, called the apostolic letter “not nearly enough,” and pointed to what itdeemed “three serious weaknesses”: the lack of stated penalties for those who don’t adhere to the norms; the lack of mandated transparency to the public; and the lack of a requirement of permanent removal from ministry for abusive clergy.
“This is not the bold action that’s desperately needed. A law without penalties is not a law at all — it’s a suggestion,” the Massachusetts-based organization said in a statement. To read the entire article: https://www.ncronline.org/news/accountability/reactions-new-church-abuse-laws-good-step-more-are-needed