May 16th, 2011
05:43 AM ET

Vatican's new sex abuse guidelines don't require reporting

By Richard Allen Greene and Hada Messia

New Vatican guidelines aimed at fighting child abuse by priests tell Catholic bishops they should cooperate with police, but do not order them to report allegations to the authorities.

"Sexual abuse of minors is not just a canonical delict but also a crime prosecuted by civil law," says the letter to bishops around the world, using the Vatican term for a violation of church law.

Abuse crisis fuels debate over John Paul II’s legacy

Local laws on reporting suspected crimes to the authorities "should always be followed," the guidelines say.

The new Vatican advice gives national conferences of bishops until May next year to come up with their own guidelines on how to handle allegations of abuse.

Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi conceded that there was little new in Monday's letter, but said breaking new ground was not the point - standardizing the church's response to abuse allegations was.

Read more coverage of the Roman Catholic Church

"Novelty is not the aim of the document," he said. "The aim of the letter is to have a common denominator of principles."

Many countries' bishops' conferences already have plans in place, but some - such as Italy - do not, Lombardi said.

"For some that have already started dealing with the problem, this letter is an encouragement, and some who have never worked on it will now start dealing with it," Lombardi said.

Bishops in Belgium and the Netherlands - both facing sex abuse scandals - are working on their own sets of guidelines. Other nations, such as Brazil, Germany, and many English-speaking countries already have them, Lombardi said.

Advocates for victims said even before they were released that they would not solve the problem.

"Bishops ignore and conceal child sex crimes because they can," said David Clohessy of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP). "So any 'reform' that doesn't diminish bishops' power and discretion is virtually meaningless."

And the new Vatican statement will not require bishops to report suspected abusers to the police, he anticipated.

"They aren't binding or mandatory, just suggestions," he said. "Such voluntary 'guidelines' have been widely ignored for years in the past. Top church staff have known of clergy sex crimes and cover ups for decades, if not centuries."

Clohessy spoke to CNN before seeing the Vatican's statement.

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The Catholic Church has been reeling in the face of accusations of child abuse from across the United States and Europe, and stretching back decades.

In the United States, eight Catholic dioceses and one Jesuit order have filed for bankruptcy protection in the face of lawsuits by victims, according to BishopAccountability, which tracks reports of abuse by priests.

The scandal has now spread to Philadelphia, where  four priests and a parochial school teacher pleaded not guilty last month to sexual abuse and conspiracy charges.

A Philadelphia grand jury report released in February led to criminal charges against them by the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office. All five have also been charged with conspiracy.

A total of 23 priests in the Philadelphia area have been placed on administrative leave.

And a series of government-backed reports in deeply Catholic Ireland found a pattern of abuse and systematic cover-ups by church officials stretching back to the 1930s.

The Vatican says only a tiny percentage of priests abuse children, and that it is taking steps to fight the problem, including defrocking priests or forcing them into positions where they do not have contact with the public.

Pope Benedict XVI issued new rules last year aimed at stopping abuse.

They included doubling the statute of limitations on the church's own prosecution of suspected molesters from 10 to 20 years, making it a church crime for a priest to download child pornography, and allowing the pope to defrock a priest without a formal Vatican trial.

Monday's guidelines, known officially as a Circular Letter from the Vatican to Catholic bishops' conferences around the world, are a follow-up to last year's statement from the pope, "motu proprio Sacramentorum sanctitatis tutela."

- Newsdesk editor, The CNN Wire

Filed under: Catholic Church • Pope Benedict XVI • Sex abuse • Vatican

soundoff (424 Responses)
  1. Holly F.

    I realize that the child victims of priest abuse should be cared for by professionals for the rest of their lives.and that they deserve due compensation for the crime committed. But has anyone addressed how shattered a family becomes because of the riipple effect of the abuse? My famiily is one of those who have fallen into that category. My husband and I have tried to keep our family together for the last 30 years, 15 of which we did not know that any abuse occurred. When the truth came out the psychological toll affected every member, child victim, children of victim and especially the parents of the victim who have to live with the fact that their child was harmed and they knew nothing about it. Thousands of dollars have been spent helping to keep the family from splintering but alas, even now, as the church knows the whole truth, the only consolation for family other than the victim his/herself is a few sessions of counseling. PTSD which is just one of the illnesses my family suffers has emptied our pockets making us almost at a welfare state in the period of our lives when we should be able to retire. What is the Catholic church doing for the secondary victims who suffer in silence and poverty?

    May 18, 2011 at 2:30 pm |
    • logmion

      Facebook Logmion Pilon

      website http://www.Logmion.org

      utube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Fk2IhaIXxM


      search google Logmion

      Has The Rock been negligent, breached its duty of care or committed crimes against god? then tell us your truthful stories of abuse and neglect and your views.

      At C.1:Q.96, Nostradamus foretells of an iconoclastic prophet, using refined language to continually educate, who is raised in the Last Days.

      Celuy qu’aura la charge de destruire,

      Temple et sects changes par fantasie,

      Plus aux rochers qu’aux

      Vivans vienra nuyre,

      Par langue ornee d’oreilles ressaisies.

      Translated this means:

      He that will have the responsibility to break down temples and sects altered through fantasy, will come to harm more the rocks than the living, through ornate language ears will continually be filled. This is obviously a major re-education process of mankind in the Last Days to eliminate the idolatrous image-worshipping systems of the religions of the Earth. Thus, Nostradamus sees an iconoclast rising in the Last Days to fulfil a mission achieved through ornate language. This is a reference to Ogmius, who chained the ears of his listeners with rhetoric. The anagram used by Nostradamus for Ogmius was Logmion.

      Has The Rock been negligent, breached its duty of care or committed crimes against god? then tell us your truthful stories of abuse and neglect and your views.

      Bring Back Petrus Romanus

      Twitter @Logmion

      Facebook Logmion Pilon

      website http://www.Logmion.org

      utube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Fk2IhaIXxM


      search google Logmion

      June 27, 2011 at 5:26 pm |
  2. EliteAmericans

    Keep your children safe at church. Give them one of these [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IMBpy24rr_k&w=640&h=390]

    May 18, 2011 at 12:42 pm |
  3. Artist

    Daniel Haszard – javahova witnesses are one of the most annoying christian groups. Just to let you know.

    May 18, 2011 at 11:51 am |
  4. Adelina

    The Catholic Church can get renewal by reading the Bible and trusting Jesus alone.

    May 18, 2011 at 2:48 am |
  5. JWH

    Here is a guideline...dial 911.
    The patron saint of pedofiles is not helping the situation.
    The catholics need an Ezra.

    May 17, 2011 at 10:18 pm |
  6. Mick

    Pope: "Well, uh, okay, I guess maybe child molestation is wrong...we need to do something about it. The stuff people have been saying for decades probably has some merit. Okay, you bishops: Figure something out and get back to me a year from now.

    May 17, 2011 at 8:04 pm |
  7. THOR


    May 17, 2011 at 4:34 pm |
  8. Allons-y

    Daniel Haszard, I think you logged into the wrong discussion: I've seen two of your posts so far, and they're both about the Jehovah's Witnesses. where in the article do you see any mention of them? You're making accusations without backing them up with facts. So until you can bring evidence on the table, do us all a favor and crawl back under the rock from which you came. By the way if you know cases of abuse, but aren't reporting them to the police, you're no better.

    May 17, 2011 at 3:01 pm |
    • jwitness

      That Danny guy is a disgruntled former witness who bashes the brothers in all the papers on the net. he comes under (1 Peter 4:4-5) . He isn't worth the trouble to worry about. he bashes his family too for being witnesses. Stop over at jjwitness.wordpress.com for daily news about our brothers struggles.


      June 2, 2011 at 5:03 pm |
  9. Mary

    What part of this sentence didn't the author of this blog read?

    "Specifically, without prejudice to the sacramental internal forum, the prescriptions of civil law regarding the reporting of such crimes to the designated authority should always be followed."

    May 17, 2011 at 2:30 pm |
    • The Jackdaw

      But they are not required to report abuse if they discover it. In other words, “keep a lid on it if you can”.

      May 17, 2011 at 3:20 pm |
  10. The Jackdaw

    Church. What a joke.

    May 17, 2011 at 12:44 pm |
  11. Al

    Doesn't that come under the heading of "harboring a criminal"? As a school teacher, I am required by law to report any evidence of abuse of children. Why does the Catholic church continue to put itself above civil law, moral responsibility, and even the safety of our children? Does the Catholic church SERVE the people, or does it RULE them? Does the church exist to CARE for the children, or ABUSE them? IF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH REFUSES TO COMPLY WITH THE LAWS THAT PROTECT OUR CHILDREN, THEN THE LAW NEEDS TO TAKE CONTROL OF THE SITUATION AND HOLD THE CHURCH LEGALLY RESPONSIBLE FOR ITS DECISION TO PROTECT CHILD-ABUSERS!

    May 17, 2011 at 6:09 am |
  12. Marge

    As a catholic I have turned my back on the church but not God. I live my life according to God's rules. I do not need the church to "talk to God" or ask for forgiveness. In my heart I know God hears, forgives, and loves me. Every time I went to church it was about how much money the church needed. How could the priests live with themselves? I am not saying all the priests did this but the truth is that they are all humans with weaknesses. So why would the church believe they are above the law?

    May 17, 2011 at 1:34 am |
    • Reality

      A different view via a prayer/creed:

      The Apostles' Creed 2011: (updated by yours truly based on the studies of NT historians and theologians during the past 200 years)

      I might believe in a god whose existence cannot be proven
      and said god if he/she/it exists resides in an unproven,
      human-created, spirit state of bliss called heaven.

      I believe there was a 1st century CE, Jewish, simple,
      preacher-man who was conceived by a Jewish carpenter
      named Joseph living in Nazareth and born of a young Jewish
      girl named Mary. (Some say he was a mamzer.)

      Jesus was summarily crucified for being a temple rabble-rouser by
      the Roman troops in Jerusalem serving under Pontius Pilate,

      He was buried in an unmarked grave and still lies
      a-mouldering in the ground somewhere outside of

      Said Jesus' story was embellished and "mythicized" by
      many semi-fiction writers. A bodily resurrection and
      ascension stories were promulgated to compete with the
      Caesar myths. Said stories were so popular that they
      grew into a religion known today as Catholicism/Christianity
      and featuring dark-age, daily wine to blood and bread to body rituals
      called the eucharistic sacrifice of the non-atoning Jesus.


      May 17, 2011 at 12:05 pm |
    • Abishai

      You may have given up on the church but the Lord "loved her and gave himself up for her" (Eph. 5) and she is all that is on His heart. The genuine church is on this earth somewhere. Don't despair of searching for it.

      May 17, 2011 at 7:50 pm |
    • Reality


      In my search, I found this:

      Saving Christians from the Great Resurrection Con/Disease:

      From that famous passage: In 1 Corinthians 15 St. Paul reasoned, "If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith."

      Even now Catholic/Christian professors of theology are questioning the bodily resurrection of the simple, preacher man aka Jesus.

      To wit;

      From a major Catholic university's theology professor’s grad school white-board notes:

      "Heaven is a Spirit state or spiritual reality of union with God in love, without earthly – earth bound distractions.
      Jesus and Mary's bodies are therefore not in Heaven.

      Most believe that it to mean that the personal spiritual self that survives death is in continuity with the self we were while living on earth as an embodied person.

      Again, the physical Resurrection (meaning a resuscitated corpse returning to life), Ascension (of Jesus' crucified corpse), and Assumption (Mary's corpse) into heaven did not take place.

      The Ascension symbolizes the end of Jesus' earthly ministry and the beginning of the Church.

      Only Luke's Gospel records it. The Assumption ties Jesus' mission to Pentecost and missionary activity of Jesus' followers The Assumption has multiple layers of symbolism, some are related to Mary's special role as "Christ bearer" (theotokos). It does not seem fitting that Mary, the body of Jesus' Virgin-Mother (another biblically based symbol found in Luke 1) would be derived by worms upon her death. Mary's assumption also shows God's positive regard, not only for Christ's male body, but also for female bodies." "

      "In three controversial Wednesday Audiences, Pope John Paul II pointed out that the essential characteristic of heaven, hell or purgatory is that they are states of being of a spirit (angel/demon) or human soul, rather than places, as commonly perceived and represented in human language. This language of place is, according to the Pope, inadequate to describe the realities involved, since it is tied to the temporal order in which this world and we exist. In this he is applying the philosophical categories used by the Church in her theology and saying what St. Thomas Aquinas said long before him."

      The Vatican quickly embellished this story with a lot CYAP.

      Of course, we all know that angels are really mythical "pretty wingie talking thingies".

      With respect to rising from the dead, we also have this account:

      o An added note: As per R.B. Stewart in his introduction to the recent book, The Resurrection of Jesus, Crossan and Wright in Dialogue,

      o p.4
      o "Reimarus (1774-1778) posits that Jesus became sidetracked by embracing a political position, sought to force God's hand and that he died alone deserted by his disciples. What began as a call for repentance ended up as a misguided attempt to usher in the earthly political kingdom of God. After Jesus' failure and death, his disciples stole his body and declared his resurrection in order to maintain their financial security and ensure themselves some standing."

      o p.168. by Ted Peters:
      1. Even so, asking historical questions is our responsibility. Did Jesus really rise from the tomb? Is it necessary to have been raised from the tomb and to appear to his disciples in order to explain the rise of early church and the transcription of the bible? Crossan answers no, Wright answers, yes. "

      o So where are the bones"? As per Professor Crossan's analyses in his many books, the body of Jesus would have ended up in the mass graves of the crucified, eaten by wild dogs, with lime in a shallow grave, or under a pile of stones.

      May 17, 2011 at 11:43 pm |
  13. Grisel

    This is soooooo saddddddd!!! How long will it take to make these predators accountable????

    May 17, 2011 at 12:26 am |
    • Daniel Haszard

      The Jehovah’s Witnesses have a policy within their religion that protects pedophiles. The official policy is that the elders of the “Church” are supposed to handle the matter internally, without contacting the police. They do this so that shame will not be brought on the religion.

      It’s important that they keep a squeaky clean image to the public. Remember they believe they are the only “True” religion and all other Christian Churches are under the control of Satan. JW’s are not supposed to sue other JW’s or involve the police or courts. They believe these are Satan’s organizations and any crime by a JW should be dealt with internally.
      The elders will contact the police ONLY if they’re forced to by state law. Otherwise they are forced to follow official policy from headquarters. Some states require that “priests” or “pastors” report child abuse to the authorities. If they are not forced to report them than they cover it up.

      You might actually get a unreported pedophile knocking on your door next time they show up peddling pamphlets and selling “Eternal Life”.

      May 17, 2011 at 3:30 am |
    • ncguy

      For any who would like the truth about what Mr. Haszard has stated, he is completely wrong. We do not 'protect' pedophiles in any way and the direction given is to always report any incident to the authorities. A guilty individual would have to be removed from the congregation (see 1Cor 5:11-13) and hence would no longer be one of Jehovah's Witnesses. That means no pedophile will be knocking on your door. And unlike most other religions, no pedophile is allowed to have a position of oversight, such as an elder or ministerial servant, EVER. Period. No shuffling, no hiding anything from the authorities. We protect or members as best as we can, and in the totally scriptural way.

      May 18, 2011 at 4:48 am |
  14. Helen Welter

    Every Catholic ought to be outraged by this new non-directive approach to the issue of clerical child abuse. The bishops are not mandated to report abuse, can make the decision on their own if the allegation is credilbe (are the bunnies counting the cabbages here?) and there are no consequences if the bishops do not follow the "suggestions". This "new" statement is "much ado about nothing". As Catholics, we should be ashamed that the Pope is doing nothing about the problem of child
    abuse and cover up in the Catholic church.
    much ado

    May 17, 2011 at 12:05 am |
    • Owl96

      The new directive is world wide. Since local laws and civil requirements vary, it is difficult to make a general statement. The directive did say that local reporting laws should be followed. In the U.S., that would include reporting it to the local LEO. Each bishop, priest and lay person who works with youth in the Catholic Church in the United States has already been handed the local procedures for their community. The Pope says to follow them.

      May 18, 2011 at 1:59 pm |
  15. Reality

    Why did today's pope, prelates, preachers and rabbis, so focused on society's se-xual sins, lose sight of clerical se-xual sins?

    Obviously ordination in any religion is not assurance of good behavior !!!!!

    Neither is coronation!!! e.g. Henry VIII, King David.

    Neither is marriage as 50% of those men convicted of pedophilia are married.

    Neither is being elected president of the USA!! e.g. Billy "I did not have se-x with that girl" Clinton, John "Marilyn Monroe" Kennedy".

    Neither is possessing super athletic skill!!! e.g. Tiger "I am so sorry for getting caught" Woods.

    Neither is being an atheist or pagan since pedophilia is present in all walks of life.

    If someone is guilty of a crime in this litany of "neithers" they should or should have been penalized as the law dictates to include jail terms for pedophiliacs (priests, rabbis, evangelicals, boy scout leaders, married men/women), divorce for adultery (Clinton, Kennedy, Woods), jail terms for obstruction of justice (Clinton, Cardinal Law, Pope Benedict?) and the death penalty or life in prison for murder ("Kings David and Henry VIII).


    May 16, 2011 at 11:51 pm |
    • CJ

      You make a very good point in that man is in a fallen state and as such is always prone to evil. Especially those who are suppose to be leaders, spiritual or otherwise. Looks at Christianity and see that even Jesus' own Apostles, who knew Him on a personal and intimate level and witnessed His many miracles, were prone to betray him; Judas betrayed him and despaired while Peter betrayed him and repented and went on to become the first Pope of the Catholic church. This will always be the case in this life. I don't care what religion one is or even if one is secular or atheist. The bottom line is that the Catholic Church does not nor ever will teach that pedophilia is acceptable. Blame the corrupt men that run it but don't disparage the church itself, which was founded by Jesus Christ Himself and of which every other Christian denomination derives.

      May 17, 2011 at 2:26 pm |
    • Reality


      Might want to review the conclusions of many contemporary NT scholars.

      A summary for your perusal:

      Jesus was an illiterate Jewish peasant/carpenter/simple preacher man who suffered from hallucinations (or “mythicizing” from P, M, M, L and J) and who has been characterized anywhere from the Messiah from Nazareth to a mythical character from mythical Nazareth to a ma-mzer from Nazareth (Professor Bruce Chilton, in his book Rabbi Jesus). An-alyses of Jesus’ life by many contemporary NT scholars (e.g. Professors Crossan, Borg and Fredriksen, ) via the NT and related doc-uments have concluded that only about 30% of Jesus' sayings and ways noted in the NT were authentic. The rest being embellishments (e.g. miracles)/hallucinations made/had by the NT authors to impress various Christian, Jewish and Pagan sects.

      The 30% of the NT that is "authentic Jesus" like everything in life was borrowed/plagiarized and/or improved from those who came before. In Jesus' case, it was the ways and sayings of the Babylonians, Greeks, Persians, Egyptians, Hitt-ites, Canaanites, OT, John the Baptizer and possibly the ways and sayings of traveling Greek Cynics.

      For added "pizzazz", Catholic theologians divided god the singularity into three persons and invented atonement as an added guilt trip for the "pew people" to go along with this trinity of overseers. By doing so, they made god the padre into god the "filicider".

      Current RCC problems:

      Pedophiliac priests, an all-male, mostly white hierarchy, atonement theology and original sin!!!!

      May 17, 2011 at 3:22 pm |
  16. Solmanus

    The Third Secret of Fatima is coming true. Self-destruction of the Roman Catholic Church.

    May 16, 2011 at 11:34 pm |
    • Colin

      The so called "third secret of Fátima" is nothing more than the maniacal rantings of Lúcia Matos. I think it is fairly safe to say that Lúcia suffered from lifelong delusional schizophrenia. She was what an impatient person might term an attention seeking nut job. A complete head case. In fact, Lúcia’s apparitions increased in frequency to the point where the Catholic Church started wishing she would shut up and go away. It pretty much locked her away, prevented anybody from seeing her and forbade her from talking about the apparitions. It is hard not to conclude that the basic idea of the Church was, “Look, they believe us. Just shut up and go away or you’ll blow it for us all.”

      May 17, 2011 at 5:34 am |
  17. Believer

    The catholic church has always hidden the lives of their priests. That is why Mexico had to break into the convents years ago when they found out about the priests raping the nuns...and killing the evidence. The system of celibacy is not natural...

    May 16, 2011 at 9:38 pm |
    • Daniel Haszard

      Jehovah's Witnesses are right behind the Catholic Church in its cronyism towards their leaders, and have been known to shuffle elders around to different congregations to hide the secret. Shame!

      May 17, 2011 at 3:20 am |
    • doctore0

      Largest/oldest paedophile ring in the world.

      people look the other way.. because they think eternal life awaits for fools

      May 17, 2011 at 10:48 am |
    • Mary

      "Specifically, without prejudice to the sacramental internal forum, the prescriptions of civil law regarding the reporting of such crimes to the designated authority should always be followed.

      May 17, 2011 at 2:31 pm |
    • joeNYC

      Thanks Ratzinger. Really – it's good to know that you and your pompous underlings still strive to protect the boy f–kers of the world.

      The above is sarcasm.

      May 17, 2011 at 3:53 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.