New Vatican laws on clergy abuse not enough

clergy sexual abuse

A former member of Pope Francis’ commission on clergy sexual abuse said the recent revision of the criminal section of the Catholic Church’s canon law do not go far enough to protect children and vulnerable adults from possible predators.

Marie Collins pointed out that the new provisions do not mandate that a priest found guilty of abuse be removed from any office he may hold, or from the priesthood.

Instead, the provisions say that a priest found guilty of abuse can be deprived of office or dismissed from the clerical state “where the case calls for it.”

Collins, an Irish abuse survivor who resigned in frustration from the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors in 2017, said, “They had the opportunity to nail it down in black and white.”

“They haven’t done that,” she told the webinar, hosted by the Cleveland-based reform group FutureChurch on June 15.

“As we know, a bishop can think something is very serious where another bishop might think this is not very serious,” she said. “[This] is leaving the decision down to personal judgment.”

Breda O’Brien, in her column in the Irish Times, said “there are lots of reasons why Catholics are leaving the church. But the failure by the Catholic Church worldwide to act decisively, courageously and truthfully in relation to sexual abuse of children and vulnerable adults is an important and tragic factor.”

Bishop Robert Barron, auxiliary bishop of Los Angeles and one of the most popular speakers at the recent World Meeting of Families said recently, “Maybe 50 years ago, people didn’t quite understand but if we don’t understand it now, we’re blind, deaf and stupid. Lives were shattered, broken, destroyed by these acts, so I think it is important for us to name them as crimes of sexual assault and sexual violence.”

Collins expressed concern with the way the new provisions describe a priest who abuses a minor or a vulnerable adult as committing “an offence against the Sixth Commandment” with that person.

The Sixth Commandment is the prohibition against committing adultery.

“As a survivor, I find that highly derogatory,” Collins said of the provisions’ language. “As if somehow, the child was colluding with the priest to break the Sixth Commandment.”

“Victims, children, who have been sexually assaulted or abused or raped do not see how that comes within the sin of breaking the Sixth Commandment,” she said.

During a June 1 press conference presenting the new provisions, the secretary of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts had defended the use of the sixth commandment language.

Bishop Juan Ignacio Arrieta said using that language makes the issue “clear” to Catholics living across various cultures on different continents.


National Catholic Reporter

Irish Times

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News category: World.

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