Vatican establishes new rules for pedophilia cases

09 Jan 2002

Vatican establishes new rules for pedophilia cases


Jan. 8, 2002 | VATICAN CITY (AP) --

The Vatican has come up with new guidelines for the Roman Catholic Church to handle pedophilia accusations against priests, ordering church officials worldwide to inform it swiftly of such cases and declaring them subject to secrecy.

Promoted by the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the rules were approved by Pope John Paul II, who in the past has expressed solidarity with the victims of sexual abuse by clergy.

The guidelines, which are apparently aimed at centralizing Vatican control over such cases, are intended for use by Catholic dioceses and religious institutions and do not apply to government inquiries or prosecutions.

Written in Latin and prepared several months ago, the church rules were quietly published in the Holy See's official gazette. They surfaced Tuesday in the newly printed 2001 yearbook of Vatican documents.

Pedophilia cases have been a major headache for the Catholic church. Besides the sting of moral scandal, dioceses in the United States and other countries have had to deal with expensive claims for financial damages.

The new guidelines came as a letter by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, a close aide of John Paul and the guardian of doctrinal orthodoxy.

He wrote that pedophile cases were subject to pontifical secrecy. Only priests should handle such cases, including those serving as judges, prosecutor or defense advocate in church tribunals.

He also said victims must make their accusations within 10 years after turning 18.

The Vatican urged local church officials to act swiftly where there is "at least probable knowledge of a grave crime."

The letter didn't spell out what sanctions could be taken against priests suspected or proven of being pedophiles, but their removal from the clerical ranks is a possibility.

In 1994, at the request of U.S. church officials, the Vatican approved policy for handling pedophilia cases in the United States. The 2001 policy "incorporates the major points" of the American policy, said a spokesman for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Monsignor Francis Maniscalco.


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