CDF to release revised norms for sex-abuse cases

John Allen reports that the Vatican will be streamlining the process by which sex-abuse cases are handled:

The church’s current law in sex abuse cases was laid out in a 2001 document, known as a motu proprio, meaning under the pope’s personal authority, from Pope John Paul II, titled Sacramentorum sanctitatis tutela. Sources say the new revisions will codify exceptions to that motu proprio secured by then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, in February 2003.

Those exceptions, known as “special faculties,” generally had the effect of streamlining church procedures for weeding abusers out of the priesthood.

Yet sources say the revisions also contain two new wrinkles: They extend the statute of limitations in canon law, known as prescription, for bringing a charge of sexual abuse of a minor from ten years from the victim’s eighteenth birthday to twenty. For the first time, the revisions also identify child pornography as a “grave offense” subject to the doctrinal congregation.

In practice, the extension of the statute of limitations is not likely to have a dramatic effect, given that the doctrinal congregation already has authority to set it aside on a case-by-case basis. To date they’ve done so in the bulk of cases they’ve faced.

Sounds like a positive step, but we’ll have to wait to see what the final changes will entail. Read more of Allen’s report here.

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Margaret Cabaniss is the former managing editor of Crisis Magazine. She joined Crisis in 2002 after graduating from the University of the South with a degree in English Literature and currently lives in Baltimore, Maryland. She now blogs at SlowMama.com.

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