Vatican issues procedures on cases of sexual abuse of minors

FILE PHOTO: People walk on St. Peter's Square after the Vatican reports its first case of coronavirus, at the Vatican, March 6, 2020. REUTERS/Yara Nardi/File Photo

Tista' taqra bil- Malti.

The Vatican has issued the Vademecum which is a step-by-step guide to help ascertain the truth in cases of minors who have suffered abuse on the part of a member of the clergy. The Vademecum is an instruction manual which, in a bit more than 30 pages and 9 chapters which responds to the main questions to several procedural steps regarding how cases of the sexual abuse of minors committed by members of the clergy should be handled.

The Vatican explained that it does not introduce new legislation on the subject but is a tool designed to help Ordinaries and legal professionals who need to apply canonical norms to actual cases regarding the more serious delict or crime.

The request for the Vademecum was made during the Global Meeting of the Presidents of the Episcopal Conferences on the Protection of Minors held in the Vatican in February 2019.

There are four areas that the Vademecum identifies;

  • Rights of the accused
  • Careful verification of information
  • The secret of office and public notification
  • Collaboration between Church and state

The Vatican explained that even if the “commission of the delict is manifestly evident”, the accused must always be guaranteed the right to self-defence. The accused can present an appeal in either the penal or administrative processes, but the decision of the Supreme Pontiff is final.

The second aspect that emerges from the Vademecum is the need to verify all the information received by an Ordinary regarding an alleged case of abuse. The third aspect covers communication. A few times, the Vademecum brings up the obligation to respect “secret of office”. It also stresses that, during the preliminary investigation, the alleged victim and witnesses have no ”obligation of silence about the allegations”.

The fourth aspect is about the importance of collaboration between the Church and state.

The document also includes precautionary measures which are not punishment but an administrative act that can be imposed at the beginning of the preliminary investigation to protect both the name of the persons involved and the public good, to avoid scandal, the covering up of evidence, or possible threats to the alleged victim.

Once the reason for such precautionary measures no longer exists or the process has concluded, they can be revoked.