Vatican to Issue New Abuse Guidelines

by John McKiggan

The Associated Press reports that the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith plans to release new guidelines advising Bishops on how to deal with cases of sexual abuse of children by priests.

The guidelines have been in the works for at least six months. In November last year, Cardinal William Levada indicated the Vatican would recommend establishing prevention programs, better screening of priests and advise Bishops to obey civil reporting requirements.

Need a Recommendation to Obey the Law?

Every province in Canada (and in most jurisdictions around the world) have laws that require persons in authority to report suspected child abuse to the police or appropriate child protection agency. It is a sad commentary that the Vatican apparently feels it is necessary to remind Bishops of their obligation to obey the law.

Voluntary not Mandatory?

I find it interesting that the Vatican’s news release is referring to “guidelines” rather than “rules”. This suggests that the Vatican will allow Bishops to decide whether to implement the recommendations.

What happens if a Bishop fails to implement the precautions that the Vatican appears to be poised to recommend? Will there be any consequences? Other than to victims who may be abused if Bishops do not implement the “guidelines”?

Liability Issue?

Perhaps the Vatican is trying to avoid the possibility of the recommendations being used against the Church in future litigation. If the recommendations are mandatory rules, and they are not followed, it makes it easier for victims of abuse to prove negligence on the part of a Diocese.

On the other hand, if the recommendations are merely “guidelines” Bishops are free to argue that, given the circumstances of their particular Diocese, it was not necessary to implement the recommendations.

I will post copies of the “guidelines” when they are made public.

4 Responses to “Vatican to Issue New Abuse Guidelines”

December 31, 1969 at 6:00 pm, robert hoatson said:

The new guidelines will be another public relations effort to convince people that the Vatican is serious about protecting children. They will mean nothing because the Vatican will not enforce them. Instead of writing more guidelines and ignoring them, all the bishops (ALL!) should resign and the Church should start over again, using the teachings of Jesus as the guidelines.

December 31, 1969 at 6:00 pm, Rich said:

I have been saying the same thing for years. “Why does any person or organization need a set of guidelines to inform them what to do if they know or suspect a child is being abuse?” All you need is a telephone to call the police. You don’t have to be head cashier at the Jiffy Lube to understand this!

December 31, 1969 at 6:00 pm, CER1940 said:

The so called “Guidelines” are much like the fancy garb that the church officials wear. It is window dressing that is intended to impress the common person. Beyond that, it will serve little purpose and the bishops are free to operate as they wish.

May 14, 2011 at 9:07 am, Veronica Abbass said:

“[T]he letter . . . is designed to help bishops conferences around the world prepare their own guidelines for dealing with abuse cases.”

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