Vatican’s updated guidelines for handling abuse cases released

updated guidelines

The Vatican has released slightly updated guidelines for bishops, religious superiors and canon lawyers handling cases of alleged clerical abuse.

It is two years since the original step-by-step guide was released.

Called “Version 2.0”, the updated guidelines provide a new section of the Code of Canon Law dealing with crimes and punishments in the Church.

“Book VI: Penal Sanctions in the Church” went into effect last December and was the result of almost two decades of work which clarifies, updates, adds and strengthens the Code’s list of crimes and provisions available for sanctioning the guilty.

As a step-by-step guide, the “Vademecum on certain points of procedure in treating cases of sexual abuse of minors committed by clerics” was updated to include references to the revised canons.

The dicastery says the text “does not have the force of law”. Rather, “it is intended to meet a growing need for knowledge” about the procedures to be followed when accusations of abuse are made.

The Vademecum’s revision also reflects contributions from “academic centres and studies in the field that have come in the last two years,” as well as suggestions made by those who work with victims and survivors of abuse, the dicastery says.

The changes are minor ones, however.

Specific changes

New reference numbers have been provided for many of the canons.

All instances of the word “congregation” have been changed to “dicastery” in accordance with the pope’s reform of the Roman Curia.

The original 2020 guidelines included a statement saying “The anonymity of the source should not automatically lead to considering the report as false”.

The updated guidelines repeat and expand the guidelines to add “… especially when it is accompanied by documentation that attests to the likelihood of a delict”.

The updated “Norms regarding delicts reserved to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith” published in October 2021 have also been tweaked.

It is no longer simply advisable for an accused cleric to be assisted by a lawyer or advocate. That is now mandatory. The accused can choose his own counsel or one will be appointed for him.


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