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July 14th, 2010
04:14 PM ET

Vatican set to publish new rules on abuse

The Catholic Church on Thursday is expected to release its new rules to try to prevent clergy from abusing children, a source close to the Vatican told CNN.

The rules will be aimed more at firming up existing practices, said the source, who asked not to be named because the source was talking about the regulations before they are made public.

The Vatican will add the possession of child pornography to the list of most serious crimes, declare the abuse of any mentally retarded person to be as bad as the abuse of children, and double the statute of limitations on the Vatican's prosecution of suspected abuse.

The Vatican also plans to make it a major crime against the church to ordain a woman as a priest, the source said.

Some critics of the Catholic Church have said that having women in the hierarchy could have helped prevent clerical child abuse. It is not clear if the hardening of the Vatican's longstanding line against women priests is related to the accusation.

The new rules on child abuse are a response to accusations against priests across Europe and the United States in the past several years, and come not long, in Vatican terms, after the last set of such rules was issued in 2001.

Pope Benedict XVI was a key in drafting the 2001 rules, when he was Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.

The source said the new rules were designed primarily to set down in canon law what the church already practices.

They deal only with how the church handles allegations of misbehavior by clergy, the source said, explaining that it did not change existing Vatican policy of also reporting suspected child abuse to civil authorities.

Abuse victims are already saying the changes don't go far enough.

"There needs to be massive overhaul, not mere tweaking,of how the church
deals with abuse and cover-up," said Barbara Dorris, of the Survivors Network
of those Abused by Priests.

"As long as bishops can ignore and conceal child sex crimes without punishment, they'll keep ignoring and concealing child sex crimes," she said last week, responding to media reports about what the new guidelines would say.

"The focus needs to be on catching predators more quickly, involving secular law enforcement, and preventing recklessness and deceit by bishops, who can and should take many steps to protect the vulnerable long before the defrocking process begins," she said.

Thousands of people have come forward in the United States, Ireland, the Netherlands, Austria and the pope's native Germany to say they were abused as children by Catholic clergy.

The crisis has particularly shocked deeply Catholic Ireland, where three government-backed investigations have uncovered physical and sexual abuse stretching back decades.

Police in Belgium recenty raided the headquarters of the Catholic Church there, and later spent 10 hours questioning the cardinal who used to head the Belgian Catholic Church.

The pope has repeatedly said the Vatican will seek justice for victims.

Last month he said the church must promise "to do everything possible" to ensure that the sexual abuse of children by Catholic priests "will never occur again."

Benedict said the church must "insistently beg forgiveness from God" and from victims for the sexual abuse committed by Catholic priests. He also said priests must be more thoroughly vetted before joining the ministry.

CNN's Hada Messia, Richard Allen Greene and the CNN Wire Staff contributed to this report.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Catholic Church

soundoff (421 Responses)
  1. Holly Golightly

    ya I so don't get the moderating comments crapola

    July 15, 2010 at 6:52 pm |
  2. Holly Golightly

    @Burbank and others who have been abused–I offer sincere praise at your bravery.

    July 15, 2010 at 6:29 pm |
  3. Petel2

    News, the vatican masts cause cancer in children? Must be a sign the last pope needs for sainthood. Google "Vatican masts causes cancer in children"

    July 15, 2010 at 6:23 pm |
    • CatholicMom

      No, I am not aware of other denominations having guidelines on the abuses committed by them. Why isn't the media aware? Shouldn't we learn what is working to combat the abuse?

      July 16, 2010 at 11:01 am |
    • Petel2

      Even though you posted under the wrong thread, I'll still answer.
      As a victim who is involved with other victims, we do know that the RCC's worst crimes are those of lies and deceit, cover ups. No other organization has orchestrated cover ups with threats as the RCC, that is fact. No other organization had such a high percentage of pedos as the RCC, that is fact. All reports we hear about, including the John Jay report, were paid for by the US bishops themselves. Even John jay states they well underreported.
      Finally, don't brag of the RCC since it was victims and families who demanded it. The vatican did not do this on their own, we forced them. Even still, they have a long way to go.
      Also, in California and Delaware where law makers preserved victims civil rights, over 85% of the cases were against the RCC and less than 15% were the sum total of all other religions and organizations. The RCC better have policies in place and ought to take care of themselves before pointing to others.

      July 16, 2010 at 11:50 am |
    • ted

      organized religion does not equal faith.

      July 17, 2010 at 7:27 pm |
  4. CatholicMom

    My! Commentaries on child abuses in the Catholic Church are profuse....
    At the bottom of one commentary by the…‘S’pecial ‘N’ot-to-mention ‘A’ny other religious figures [ if you-can-help-it] except ‘P’riests… states that other religious figures from every denomination has been added to their files as also having child abusers amongst them which is how they arrive at the total number of abused children. A sickening number to be sure. This is posted at the bottom of their commentary in parentheses. So what are these other denominations guidelines? Do they have any? Or is the Catholic Church the only one who is working on stopping the abuse?

    July 15, 2010 at 5:01 pm |
    • Petel2

      Most did not abuse children with such volumes and written instructions to deny the child help – disgusting..
      Now guidelines you ask? hadn't been for the victims and families demanding the RCC place rules to protect children, it would be rrrappes and sssodddomiesss as usual. They even failed on the first few attempts, we stayed on them though. Thanks to victims and families, not the RCC.

      July 15, 2010 at 6:16 pm |
    • CatholicMom

      As far as we can tell, there have been no other guidelines submitted except by the Catholic Church; shouldn't there be guidelines from alll the other denominations explaining how they are working on solutions to combat the abuse in their congregations? Whether they have one or one million abuses in their non-Catholic congregations, they need to submit guidelines also; we should have concern for all children, not just Catholic children.

      July 15, 2010 at 6:59 pm |
    • Petel2

      Yes, the victims and families demanded the RCC set guidelines, and about time. Even still, the vatican falls quite short. They are afraid to doing it right or otherwise be called out on their horrors.
      Where you aware most other religions have had guidelines in place for decades?
      A Victim

      July 15, 2010 at 7:48 pm |
    • Petel2

      However the RCC's guidelines are over ruled by their oath. The oath that demands the secret be kept by all means if the truth harms the reputation of the church. You know the one, "Mental Reservation". "Mental reservation" trumps all, meaning guidelines are meaningless, the pope can write what he wishes.

      July 15, 2010 at 7:54 pm |
    • ted

      The catholic church is built on abuse of everything and everyone.

      July 17, 2010 at 7:25 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.