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. cornholio

    Sounds like all those supporting the RCC are also supporting pedophelia because they keep sending their children, leading the lambs to the wolves. The parents should be held accountable for letting this horrible thing continue. People that donate to the church also are contributing to keep this circus going. I love how people keep refering to molestation as a "mistake", it is a mistake to ever believe in an organization run by men wearing dresses.

    May 16, 2011 at 8:58 pm |
    • CatholicMom

      All through the Bible vestments and priests were important. Jesus Himself had his robe ‘without seam’ taken from Him. Such robes were meant for Kings. Priests are standing in for Jesus Christ here on earth [persona Christi] so that Jesus Christ can continue with His Priesthood. Here are a few verses to help you understand the ‘why’ about the robes, mitered diadem, and such:
      John 19:23
      The soldiers therefore, when they had crucified him, took his garments, (and they made four parts, to every soldier a part,) and also his coat. Now the coat was without seam, woven from the top throughout.

      Remember the soldiers drew lots to see who would win the royal seamless robe…..
      Remember also that the Old Testament is hidden in the New Testament and the New Testament is the fulfillment of the Old Testament.

      Isaias (Isaiah) 22:21
      And I will clothe him with thy robe, and will strengthen him with thy girdle, and will give thy power into his hand: and he shall be as a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and to the house of Juda.

      Ecclesiasticus 45:12
      He gave him a holy robe of gold, and blue, and purple, a woven work of a wise man, endued with judgment and truth:

      Exodus 28:39
      And thou shalt gird the tunick with fine linen, and thou shalt make a fine linen mitre, and a girdle of embroidered work.

      Wisdom 18:24
      For in the priestly robe which he wore, was the whole world: and in the four rows of the stones the glory of the fathers was graven, and thy majesty was written upon the diadem of his head.

      Ecclesiasticus 45:9
      And he girded him about with a glorious girdle, and clothed him with a robe of glory, and crowned him with majestic attire.

      1 Machabees 10:20
      Now therefore we make thee this day high priest of thy nation, and that thou be called the king's friend, (and he sent him a purple robe, and a crown of gold,) and that thou be of one mind with us in our affairs, and keep friendship with us.

      Genesis 41:42
      And he took his ring from his own hand, and gave it into his hand: and he put upon him a robe of silk, and put a chain of gold about his neck.

      All for the glory of God!

      May 16, 2011 at 10:33 pm |
  2. Brian

    This is an embarrassingly biased piece of reporting by Mr Greene. Compare the coverage by the BBC which is no friend of the church. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-13416498

    May 16, 2011 at 7:30 pm |
    • KeninTexas

      Brian,,,,, You're right about CNN's biases as well as how much more accurate the BBC coverage is. BBC presented the information without the built-in prejudice that is always on CNN.

      May 16, 2011 at 7:42 pm |
  3. CharlieSeattle

    Civil Rico Act plaintiffs are "Human Rights Defenders" under United Nations terminology. The Pope, Cardinals and Bishops can be arrested now!

    All it takes is a International Prosecutorial Body with the balls to kick in the doors of the Vatican and drag them out.

    Opps..there is one...

    The Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) is, along with the Chambers and Registry, one of the Tribunal’s three organs. It is mandated to investigate and prosecute persons responsible for some of the worst abuses of basic human rights and international humanitarian law that took place in Europe since the Second World War, those that occurred during the violent disintegration of Yugoslavia in the 1990s.

    The OTP is headed by a Prosecutor, appointed by the Security Council for a renewable four-year term, and a Deputy Prosecutor, appointed by the UN Secretary General. The Prosecutor is independent and does not seek or receive instructions from external agencies such as any government or international organization, or from either of the Tribunal’s other two organs.

    May 16, 2011 at 7:03 pm |
  4. shafi

    Believe in the unseen and to practise the religion of Islam is the key to success and if Allah willing to Paradise Inshallah, All Muslims believe in All the prophets about 125,000 more or less came to give the Message including Abraham,Moses,Jesus and the last prophet Muhammad (s) peace be on all of them. We need to believe in the unseen obviously what's the test to believe in the seen. If people can disobey Allah and get virgins as this world is a test why not in paradise can get virgins as many as Allah gives when Muslims obey Allah. Sincerely with an open heart and mind ask for a right path. do not listen and see media is full of lies, watch jesse ventura on conspiracy theories.

    May 16, 2011 at 6:39 pm |
  5. Mega Zeus Thor

    Sigh. I could not in good conscience give any money or belong to this organization.

    It doesn't help that I don't believe in the magic man in the sky or any other deities.

    May 16, 2011 at 5:52 pm |
  6. HERO

    No God But Allah and Abraham,Moses , Jesus and Muhammad are his messengers Peace be upon them all.

    May 16, 2011 at 5:42 pm |
    • thessalonian

      Muhamed was a false prophet. He concocted a book that he claimed was from God in order to start a religion to exalt himself.

      May 16, 2011 at 6:00 pm |
  7. malily

    Chill out everyone, the Pope and vatican is infallible! That's why you will hear from NO CATHOLICS about this on-going abuse.

    May 16, 2011 at 5:23 pm |
    • thessalonian

      The clueless continue to shoot of their mouths and show their bigotry.

      May 16, 2011 at 5:45 pm |
  8. NW1000

    This is not a Christian church. By their fruits we will know them. The bible teaches that forced celibacy is unnatural; that it is the doctrine of devils; the bishop shall be the husband of one wife, scripture says, and may be celibate if they so choose, but it cannot be forced. Further, Peter, allegedly the first pope, only claimed to be a pillar of the early church; there was no office remotely like the modern day "pope." Peter was in no way the leader of the early church, (it was James, in the book of Acts) and was later called the apostle to the Jews, not the gentiles; that was Paul.

    May 16, 2011 at 4:58 pm |
    • thessalonian

      NW1000, you better read your bible a little closer. Paul in 1 Cor 7 says celibacy is preferred, and Jesus says to some it has been given for the kingdom in Matt 19. So there is clearly a place for it. I'll bet your protestant denomination has no place for it. Catholic priests are not forced to be celibate. They choose it. If they want to be married they don't become priests is all. They are not forced to make this decision. As for the husband of one wife verse, your interpretation that they must be married is contrary to the fact that Paul was not married. The phrasing is more in the context of polygamy which was practiced at the time. It is not contrary to Catholicism by the way that priests be married. Many are in eastern rites. So your basis for your arguments are a false understanding.

      May 16, 2011 at 5:49 pm |
    • thessalonian

      Peter was not the leader? Well then why is he mentioned far more than any other apostle at 190 times to the next closest, John (not james) at about 30 times. Why is he listed first in lists of the apostles and called first even though Andrew was the first one called? Why did jesus pray for him singularly that he might strengthen the others, why did Jesus pay his tax, teach from his boat, etc. etc. Why did he convert the first gentile and perform the first miracles after the resurrection? Why did he ALWAYS speak for the group when a question was asked of the group? You need to read your bible much closer my friend and not believe all of your protestant traditions. Yes, James was A LEADER but not the leader. Peter clearly was. Stop reading protestant apologetics.

      May 16, 2011 at 5:53 pm |
    • thessalonian

      What difference does it make if he was called apostle to the jews as to whether he was leader of the Church or not? I suppose your referring to that silly claim that he was never in Rome as if Rome were only full of gentiles. Hard to image how there could be an expulsion order if there were no Jews in Rome. The fact is that at the time Peter went there it is known that there were over 50,000 jews in Rome.

      May 16, 2011 at 5:56 pm |
    • thessalonian

      No office like the Pope? Clearly you are historically ignorant. Read the writings of St. Clement, the third Pope who orders the Corinthians to reinstall the leaders they ousted in an authoritarian manner. This letter was highly regarded far and wide. Funny thing is that John the Apostle was in Ephuses, 200 miles from Corinth while Clement was in Rome 600 miles away, yet clearly the Church saw Clement as having this authority. Lots more examples I could site in the first 200 years as well.

      May 16, 2011 at 5:59 pm |
  9. Agha Ata (USA)

    I see so many mistakes, so much of evil, so much of pretension and hypocracy, so much of vanity, stubornness that I can't believe this is butter.

    May 16, 2011 at 4:30 pm |
    • thessalonian

      No office like the Pope? Clearly you are historically ignorant. Read the writings of St. Clement, the third Pope who orders the Corinthians to reinstall the leaders they ousted in an authoritarian manner. This letter was highly regarded far and wide. Funny thing is that John the Apostle was in Ephuses, 200 miles from Corinth while Clement was in Rome 600 miles away, yet clearly the Church saw Clement as having this authority. Lots more examples I could site in the first 200 years as well.

      May 16, 2011 at 5:58 pm |
  10. Agha Ata (USA)

    If the Bibe, the Church and Jesus haven't helped priests (who literary live in church, with Jesus, read their Bible every day and night, know more about spiritual life than any common man) to control their unholy desires (child abuse) then how do they expect a common Christians who goes to Church once a week, and read his Bible occasionally? Besides, in eradicating such evils, how the CHURCH or the POPE has done better than Muslims, or any non-Christian?

    May 16, 2011 at 4:19 pm |
    • Jeff

      Catholic priests do not read the Bible day and night as you claim. Ask any Catholic leader and they will tell you that Catholicism is based on traditions and dogmas, man made laws, and not based on the truth of scripture. In fact, they are polar opposites. I was raised Catholic and know first hand. Do not be fooled by the roman church.

      May 16, 2011 at 7:29 pm |
    • CatholicMom

      If you were raised Catholic then you must have attended Mass. The Bible is read at every Mass; Scripture is read from various parts of the Bible daily. If you attended Mass you would know this.

      May 16, 2011 at 10:17 pm |
  11. jda

    Until the church stops protecting its own I really don't see how they are going to escape the stigma they'vebeen faced with the past couple of decades. The Catholic church has already alienated the world with their antiquated philosophies and they only stand to harm their image more by not requiring its priests and bishops to report allegations of abuse. Anyone who works with or around children should be automatically required to report and should face conviction for failure to do so, just like teachers, doctors and coaches. We hold these people responsible for protecting children when parents cannot, and the church should not be an exception.

    May 16, 2011 at 4:06 pm |
  12. sam

    Everyone wants the church to do this and that but no one wants to own up that they are failures in their individual lives and should therefore seek the face of God in repentance.issue of morality is total not selective. ask yourself in your daily life do u have and apply moral conscience in everything you do.

    May 16, 2011 at 3:54 pm |
    • Save us all

      I voice my opinion on Catholic websites all of the time and people get mad at me for speaking out against the pope's actions on this matter

      May 16, 2011 at 4:06 pm |
  13. charlie brown

    Navy diver,
    My apologies. I accidentally flagged you. It was the person you responded to that I intended to flag.

    May 16, 2011 at 3:53 pm |
  14. i cant belive is not butter

    Hokus pokus?...lol

    May 16, 2011 at 3:34 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, B16?) and the death penalty or life in prison for murder ("Kings David and Henry VIII).

    May 16, 2011 at 3:33 pm |
    • i cant belive is not butter

      Dam!....a litte crazy arentt you?.........we should not put this on the catholic religon but the immposters that have penetrated the house of god...god did say that there would be immposters with in his kingdom and that we must stay focus and not loose sight of what is important.....

      May 16, 2011 at 3:41 pm |
  16. TheRationale

    Catholic church...at it again...

    May 16, 2011 at 3:32 pm |
    • kells

      @navydiver to don't sound like an intellegent person to me because you sound foolish by makinng such a bovine statement.

      May 16, 2011 at 5:24 pm |
  17. i cant belive is not butter

    So funny how only 300 plus comments on this topic ,but 1000s. Of comments on entertainment topics.....

    May 16, 2011 at 3:12 pm |
    • NavyDiver

      Thats because intelligent people talk about facts not fictional made up hokus pokus religions.

      May 16, 2011 at 3:25 pm |
  18. Muhammad


    May 16, 2011 at 3:12 pm |
    • NavyDiver

      Ah, another intelligent ranting from a devout christian.

      May 16, 2011 at 3:26 pm |
    • Save us all

      He's the same God of Aberham

      May 16, 2011 at 3:37 pm |
    • Save us all

      Same God of Aberham

      May 16, 2011 at 3:39 pm |
  19. i cant belive is not butter

    Catholic religon will suffeerr for this..and they should......

    May 16, 2011 at 3:08 pm |
    • Save us all

      It's already suffering. I want the lies and cover ups to cease and other Catholics to speak out about it

      May 16, 2011 at 3:45 pm |
    • i cant belive is not butter

      That's what we all want......this pope is ruining the catholic curch....how can he stand by this?

      May 16, 2011 at 3:51 pm |
    • Save us all

      I don't hear many Catholics speaking out about it. Most are quietly just accepting that the Pope is doing. This is what has allowed this behavior to happen in the first place.

      May 16, 2011 at 4:02 pm |
    • Dean

      Seems the catholic religion is above the law. This pope is protecting violent criminals. YES, VIOLENT CRIMINALS. When a rapist is convicted it usually is considered a violent crime. Enough of every day catholics turning a blind eye to this cancer the Catholic church has created and upholds.

      May 16, 2011 at 4:18 pm |
    • Ed

      actually quite a few of us have spoken out about it in the posts, in public, and with the church. You just like to ignore it becasue it makes it eaiser for you to villianize all of us for the actions of a few that we are trying to stop as well.

      May 16, 2011 at 4:45 pm |
    • Kay

      Ed – You're getting the same treatment that the millions of moderate Muslims do. People ignore those speaking out against something because it makes it easier to villianize everyone for the crimes of the few.

      May 16, 2011 at 5:57 pm |
    • Ed

      @Kay that true but its no more right in this case then it is when done to muslims

      May 16, 2011 at 5:59 pm |
    • Kay

      You and I agree completely, Ed. It is *not* appropriate. But how do you convince people who don't want to remember? Who choose to believe no one is speaking out despite all the evidence to the contrary?

      May 16, 2011 at 7:25 pm |
    • Ed

      @Kay beats me if you ever figure it out let me know

      May 17, 2011 at 8:15 am |
  20. John

    "they should cooperate with police, but do not order them to report allegations to the authorities." Same old, same old thing. the church of pedophiles.

    May 16, 2011 at 3:01 pm |
    • ignatius

      The catholic church in Irleand after the Ryan report into abuse of children and attempted hiding of the crimes by the church, set up an independent body to monitor the church abuse cases. The catholic church/bishops would not deal with the independent body it setup, Vatican will do its best to hide the criminals who abuse children. Dogma over humanity.

      May 16, 2011 at 5:47 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.