WelCom August 2020
The Vatican has released new guidelines for bishops and other senior church officials on how to deal with clerical child sex abuse claims after Pope Francis called for the procedures to be laid out step-by-step.
On July 16, the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith published Vademecum (Handbook), a 20-page guide to help bishops and other Church religious administrators handle accusations of abuse by clerics against minors.
The handbook aims to provide clarity for bishops dealing with reports of sexual abuse. It urges clerics to report any cases to their superiors and civil authorities regardless of what local legislation requires.
New Zealand’s Catholic bishops will closely review the new Vatican guide on dealing with sex abuse by priests to see how it matches their existing rules on handling such abuse.
Complaints of abuse in the New Zealand Catholic Church are handled under the A Path to Healing, Te Houhanga Rongo protocols, introduced by the bishops in 1993 and updated several times since.
In New Zealand, the Church urges victims of abuse, past and present, to complain to the Police or, if victims prefer, to the Church’s National Office for Professional Standards (NOPS), which can appoint independent investigators to examine complaints.
Cardinal John Dew, Archbishop of Wellington and Metropolitan Archbishop of New Zealand, said he and his fellow bishops would look at the Vademecum guidelines closely and discuss them at their next full Conference meeting, in September.
‘It is a complex document,’ said Cardinal Dew. ‘We will be looking carefully to see where it fits in with the civil and criminal law of New Zealand.
‘The bishops believe that every person has an innate human dignity – te tapu o te tangata – and therefore all forms of abuse are unacceptable and indefensible.’
Cardinal Dew said NOPS was also reviewing the Vademecum document to identify if changes may be needed in A Path to Healing.
Pope Francis has made the fight against sexual abuse and its cover up in the Catholic Church one of the priorities of his pontificate. A special summit on sexual abuse was held in February 2019.
For further information about Vademecum and to read the document, go to Vatican News: www.vaticannews.va/en/vatican-city/news/2020-07/vademecum-procedures-cases-sexual-abuse-minors-clergy.html
For information about NOPS and A Path to Healing: safeguarding.catholic.org.nz