Vatican says new guidelines will combat global abuse scandal

November 19, 2010

VATICAN CITY (RNS) The Vatican announced on Friday (Nov. 19) that it
is preparing international guidelines to prevent the sexual abuse of
children by Roman Catholic clergy, a long-awaited response to a scandal
that has seeped into countless corners of the church.


Cardinal William Levada, head of the Vatican's doctrinal office,
announced the plan to the assembled College of Cardinals on Friday
evening (Nov. 19).


Levada, a former archbishop of San Francisco who is one of the
highest-ranking Americans at the Vatican, told the cardinals that his
office was preparing a letter to national bishops' conferences offering
guidelines "for a coordinated and efficacious program" on clerical sex
abuse.


The forthcoming guidelines will include "collaboration with the
civil authorities," and "careful selection and education of future
priests and religious," the Vatican said.


Demand for a unified Vatican policy on sex abuse has mounted since
controversies over pedophile priests broke out in a number of European
and South American countries earlier this year.


In July, as part of the most significant overhaul of canon law in
nine years, church officials increased the statute of limitations on
abuse cases from 10 years to 20 beyond the victim's 18th birthday, with
possible extensions for victims who come forward later in life.


Practice varies widely from country to country. The Vatican has told
bishops that they must inform civil authorities of sex abuse cases only
where local laws require it.


Friday's announcement came during a day-long meeting of the world's
cardinals, who were summoned by Pope Benedict XVI to discuss major
topics of concern to the church the day before he adds 24 men, including
two Americans, to their number.


The Vatican said the cardinals agreed to encourage national bishops
conferences to develop "efficacious, timely, detailed, complete and
decisive plans for the protection of children ... even in countries
where the problem has not manifested itself in as dramatic a manner as
in others."