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New Motu Proprio on Clerical Sex Abuse Raises Standards, But Questions Remain

A new papal motu proprio letter, Vos Estis Lux Mundi, makes some important changes to the way the Vatican handles clerical sexual abuse. The plan, promulgated today, goes into effect on June 1, 2019.

“The crimes of sexual abuse,” the letter reads, “offend Our Lord, cause physical, psychological and spiritual damage to the victims and harm the community of the faithful. In order that these phenomena, in all their forms, never happen again, a continuous and profound conversion of hearts is needed, attested by concrete and effective actions that involve everyone in the Church, so that personal sanctity and moral commitment can contribute to promoting the full credibility of the Gospel message and the effectiveness of the Church’s mission.”

The new norms focus on the creation of obligatory reporting mechanisms for abuse, treats attempts to cover up child pornography use, include seminarians or religious coerced into sexual acts by superiors in the same category as minors and vulnerable adults, and, in apparent deference to the plan created by Cardinals Wuerl and Cupich last year as an alternative to a laity-run investigatory structure proposed by the US Bishops, makes metropolitan archbishops responsible for accusations against bishops within their territory.

What is notably absent from the document is any mandatory requirement that sexual crimes be reported to civil authorities, raising questions about the possibility of future cover ups.

For more on the new motu proprio, see additional coverage at the National Catholic Register and Vatican News.

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