Currents News Staff
Pope Francis’ new document entitled “You are the light of the world” is aimed at keeping religious men and women accountable for their actions.
It gives every diocese in the world until June 2020 to establish a mandatory office with “one or more public, stable and easily accessible systems for submission of reports.” It will address abuse committed, child abuse cover ups and the use of child pornography.
Crimes of abuse against religious sisters and also those committed against seminarians or novices by other clerics are included in the document.
The goal is for each victim to be listened to, protected and taken seriously.
“This is for the global Church. The Pope, who is the Supreme head of the Roman Catholic Church is giving a law to the universal Church,” said Monsignor Charles Scicluna, Prelate of the Catholic Church.
Now, all religious men and women are obliged to “report promptly” to ecclesiastical authorities any accusation of abuse they hear, a major change included within the document. While only religious are included in this mandate, laity are also asked to participate.
A lay person may also investigate a case, if the individual involved in the investigation is “free of conflicts of interest.” Each lay person is also required to take an oath to carry out the investigation properly.
Yet, the ultimate responsibility for investigations lies with the Metropolitan Archbishop, who also has new responsibilities.
When investigating bishops, he will receive a mandate from the Holy See to look into the case. The process will now also operate under fixed time frames, requiring a “status report on the state of the investigation” every thirty days. This will ensure everyone is responding to a case in a timely manner.
Additionally, a fund may be created to pay for the cost of the investigations. It will be managed by an administrator, who must receive a full account of how the money was spent at the end of the investigation.
The Metropolitan Archbishop must send the results to the competent Vatican Dicastery, who will continue the process in accordance with canonical norms and Vatican law. The Holy See, at that point, can set preventative and restrictive measures against the accused.
The penalties for committing a crime of sexual abuse remain the same, but the Pope is cracking down on the actions, or lack of them, being taken around the world, creating these mandatory global procedures for reporting and investigating abuse cases.