Vatican revises canon law on sexual abuse (and other grave crimes).
John Thavis reports:
The norms on sexual abuse of minors by priests now stipulate:
– The church law’s statute of limitations on accusations of sexual abuse has been extended, from 10 years after the alleged victim’s 18th birthday to 20 years. For several years, Vatican officials have been routinely granting exceptions to the 10-year statute of limitations. Exceptions to the 20-year limit will be possible, too, but the Vatican rejected a suggestion to do away with the statute of limitations altogether, sources said.
– Use of child pornography now falls under the category of clerical sexual abuse of minors, and offenders can be dismissed from the priesthood. This norm applies to “the acquisition, possession, or distribution by a cleric of pornographic images of minors under the age of 14, for purposes of sexual gratification, by whatever means or using whatever technology.”
– Sexual abuse of mentally disabled adults will be considered equivalent to abuse of minors. The norms define such a person as someone “who habitually lacks the use of reason.”
– In the most serious and clear cases of sexual abuse of minors by priests, the doctrinal congregation may proceed directly to laicize a priest without going through an ecclesiastical trial. In these instances, the final decision for dismissal from the clerical state and dispensation from the obligations of celibacy is made by the pope.
– The doctrinal congregation can dispense with using the formal judicial process in church law in favor of the “extrajudicial process.” In effect, this allows a bishop to remove an accused priest from ministry without going through a formal trial.
– The doctrinal congregation can dispense from church rules requiring only priests with doctorates in canon law to serve on church tribunals in trials of priests accused of abusing minors. This means qualified lay experts, including those without a canon law doctorate, can be on the tribunal staff, or act as lawyers or prosecutors.
– The doctrinal congregation’s competency in such cases means it has the right to judge cardinals, patriarchs and bishops as well as priests. Vatican sources said this norm, which originates from a decision by Pope John Paul II in 2004, indicates that if the pope authorizes a trial or penal process against such persons for sex abuse or another of the “more grave crimes,” the doctrinal congregation would be the tribunal and could also make preliminary investigations.
And, yes, as Thavis previously reported, attempted women’s ordination is now called a grave canonical crime. Vatican officials stress that simply because sexual abuse and women’s ordination are treated in the same document doesn’t mean Rome views them as equivalent.
“There are two types of ‘delicta graviora’: those concerning the celebration of the sacraments, and those concerning morals. The two types are essentially different and their gravity is on different levels,” said Msgr. Charles Scicluna, an official of the Vatican’s doctrinal congregation.
The new norms also cover the violation of confession, “simulated” celebration of the Eucharist, heresy, apostasy, and, of course, schism.
Read the rest right here.