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. FreeThinkingHuman

    Food for thought...If someone in your neighborhood, or a teacher at your child's school, or even one of our political leaders committed such a crime our law enforcement agencies would stop at nothing to ensure that they were brought to justice. However, just because these monsters hide behind the Cloth (wolf in sheep's clothing) Law enforcement agencies around the world become powerless to do anything. It's time for the people to take action to protect our children. What are we teaching our children if we don't bring these monsters to justice? How can civilization ultimately survive if we are unable to conduct our selves in a moral and just manner.

    July 14, 2010 at 9:41 pm |
    • TN Born

      110% in agreement! Take all the assets, give them to the ones that they abused and put them in prison. This is so unbelievable that these people can get away with this. The pope is God's representative on earth, give me a break!

      July 14, 2010 at 9:58 pm |
    • jane

      Yes! Some one on my wave length. It is surely time the Church was made to answer to all it's wrong doings through out history. Talk about hiding behind a woman's skirt! They have longer and bigger skirts to hide behind.

      July 14, 2010 at 10:25 pm |
  2. Drew

    Luckily, Catholic churches and schools will continue to close throughout the U.S. over the next few generations. The Pope should be arrested and the Vatican's property seized or bought by legitimate governments.

    I come from New York and I assure you that the majority of youth raised as Catholic no longer identify as such. The rest of the country might need some time to catch up, but this will be a trend for the century.

    Speak out against the Catholic Church's crimes!!!

    July 14, 2010 at 9:39 pm |
  3. Mike in Montana

    After reading this article, are they saying that the Vatican and the Pope did 'not' take child abuse seriously in the past ? There is something wrong here.., really wrong. Mike in Montana

    July 14, 2010 at 9:34 pm |
    • George

      They have never really owned up to their criminal behaviour. That would mean they could be treated like all the other perverts in the world who don't wear robes.

      July 14, 2010 at 9:42 pm |
  4. Lester G

    Self-policing never works. The solution is for civil authorities not to be intimidated, and to investigate and prosecute crimes by the Church when they are committed. That includes prosecuting conspiracy and obstruction-of-justice charges.

    July 14, 2010 at 9:33 pm |
  5. ocuinn

    Actually the celibate priesthood is endorsed very clearly by Jesus in Matthew 19: 12

    July 14, 2010 at 9:32 pm |
    • Dismay

      "For there are some eunuchs, which were so born from their mother's womb: and there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men: and there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven's sake. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it." Matthew 19:12

      This is your justification for not allowing priests to marry? Does Heaven's Gate ring a bell?

      July 14, 2010 at 9:43 pm |
  6. Albert Friday

    The pedophiles need to go to Switzerland. We can’t tolerate them and the Swiss enjoy them. Problem solved.

    July 14, 2010 at 9:30 pm |
  7. Toddler

    Ratzinger was instrumental on how the church should manage their miscreant priests. He set the rules and processes on how to cover this behaviour up while being a Cardinal! How can anyone trust this guy?

    July 14, 2010 at 9:29 pm |
  8. Jeff

    The Catholic Church is a joke!!!!!! BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!

    July 14, 2010 at 9:29 pm |
  9. james

    This guy is out of touch with reality. I sense he may have dipped in a couple of times himself.

    July 14, 2010 at 9:29 pm |
  10. Biorsel

    A new set of rules is all right but what about cover up? who gonna watch that?

    July 14, 2010 at 9:24 pm |
  11. Pete

    Dismay wrote: Look up Anselm's Ontological Argument for an amusing read

    Crap, you mean we have to read more than one book to find all the answers?

    July 14, 2010 at 9:23 pm |
  12. Cyrus Howell

    There has been decades of foot dragging at the Vatican rather than responding to this important issue of criminal priests.
    Before becoming Pope, he was the Vatican's chief bureaucrat. As we know those people do not decide anything quickly.
    It was shocking to me the Pope never touched on this subject, hoping it would just go away with God's help.
    Unfortunately that stance was like saying, " I've bugered little boys myself as a priest. Nothing wrong with that."

    July 14, 2010 at 9:22 pm |
  13. hmmm

    Shouldn't they work to weed out pedophiles from entering the clergy? Work with professionals to screen out from the
    beginning and along the way should there be any issues? not just wait for it to happen over and over and over again, then move them to another church??? I think that guy is senile and has no idea.

    July 14, 2010 at 9:22 pm |
  14. Benjamin

    For Christ's sake, just allow them to marry already! Simply restating how bad it is to molest children with more servere punishments isn't going to stop it from happening any more often, nor guarantee that the church won't just cover it up again anyway!

    July 14, 2010 at 9:20 pm |
  15. RinMaine

    He is a freakin' pedophile, always has been. Now he just likes to watch since even small boys are not enough for him. His state of mind is shown by "The Vatican also plans to make it a major crime against the church to ordain a woman as a priest, the source said." He is a pervert, determined to ignore the condition of his church and the crime that continues under his protection.

    July 14, 2010 at 9:18 pm |
  16. Michael Jackson Jr.

    Why should we take this joker seriously?

    July 14, 2010 at 9:11 pm |
  17. jim atmadison

    Until the Catholic Church releases the names of all known pedophiles to the appropriate police agencies, this is just window dressing.

    Continuing the coverups and obstructing criminal investigations just continues the pain for the victims and the mistrust.

    July 14, 2010 at 9:09 pm |
    • Dismay

      No, see, these men are accountable to God. Too bad the rest of us have to account to man.

      July 14, 2010 at 9:17 pm |
  18. Phil

    ajk68: well said – my thoughts exactly. The priest is also the first line of defense against the Devil. He will strike the shepherd to get at the sheep, and anyone who wants to be in that position without being called is a disaster looking for a place to happen. I think the Catholics pushed priesthood on waaaay too many men who couldn't fulfill the celibacy vow, who then took their urges out on children. I've seen rapid growth cause a lot of problems in other churches too.

    July 14, 2010 at 9:08 pm |
    • Dismay

      Right, because a man is so much stronger without his wife. What an imbecilic point of view.

      July 14, 2010 at 9:15 pm |
  19. wilson

    Okay... great I feel much better. They are making it official that it's officially bad to abuse children.

    The elephant in the room, that the church is overlooking, is the question of why are the priest abusing children in the first place. Look there and you will solve the problem.

    July 14, 2010 at 9:06 pm |
  20. Echo911

    Ok im not trying to bash the pope or anything or anyone's religion but that picture of the pope makes him look evil, does it not?

    July 14, 2010 at 9:04 pm |
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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.