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Q & A Resource from the USCCB June Meeting

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) gathered for the 2019 Spring General Assembly in Baltimore, June 11-14.

During the assembly, the bishops discussed and voted on bishop accountability measures to respond to the abuse crisis and also heard reports from the National Advisory Council and an annual progress report by the National Review Board.

Below is a Q & A resource from the June 2019 Meeting. Also, we have an overview of bishop accountability measures and ongoing accountability steps. (Source: USCCB)

1. What have the Bishops accomplished at the June meeting?
The Bishops approved three documents related to reporting and investigating claims of abuse or the intentional mishandling of these cases by bishops. One deals with bishops who were removed from office or resigned their office for reasons of sexual abuse or intentional mishandling of cases (Protocols). One reaffirms the commitments bishops make to live according to the Gospel and to place themselves under the same high standards applied to their priests, deacons, and lay personnel (Commitments). And the last document deals specifically with the reporting and investigation of complaints against bishops (Directives). The Bishops also approved the establishment of a national third-party reporting system to simplify the reporting of certain complaints against bishops.

2. Were the documents you approved the same proposals that you were going to consider in November?
One of them is, yes. But two of the proposals approved in June are more mature documents that reflect the recent action of the Holy Father. This is good news because it means the documents are based on and consistent with new universal laws for the reporting and handling of complaints against bishops. Pope Francis did this in the form of what is called a Motu Proprio.

3. What is a Motu Proprio?
An Apostolic Letter motu proprio is a legislative text that modifies or adds to Church law (canon law). In this case, the Holy Father issued the Apostolic Letter “on his own initiative” (in Latin, “motu proprio”) underscoring his concern and attentiveness to the topics addressed within the new procedural norms. It applies universally – that is, to the Catholic Church around the world.

4. Did the USCCB provide input into the Motu Proprio as it was being considered and
drafted?
The Motu Proprio reflects input from the Presidents of the Episcopal Conferences who were convened by Pope Francis in February of this year for the “Summit on the Protection of Minors in the Church.” At that Summit, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, USCCB President, offered insights from the experience of the Church in the United States and shared the various proposals being developed for this country. The Holy Father took all of the input he received and created a powerful universal law.

5. Why doesn’t the Motu Proprio law require calling the police?
Existing Church law in the United States already requires notifying public authorities and this is established practice in all U.S. dioceses. The Motu Proprio addresses the whole world and, in some countries, unfortunately, calling the police is not a safe thing to do. The type of investigation outlined by the Motu Proprio is separate from any investigation by  civil authorities. In no way does the Church investigation interfere with or replace a civil investigation.

6. What is the relationship between the Motu Proprio, or Church law in general, and U.S. civil law?
They are two independent systems of law. Canon law generally governs how the church works internally. Civil laws governing abuse and sexual misconduct are to be followed, including reporting such cases to the civil authorities.

7. Is this the first thing the Church has done about abuse?
No, the Motu Proprio is the latest in a series of steps the Church has taken to respond to the sin and crime of sexual abuse. In the United States, the Church has implemented a strict zero-tolerance policy, requiring priests and deacons who have committed child sexual abuse to be removed from ministry. This policy, which many dioceses already had locally, was enacted nationally in 2002 with the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, commonly referred to as the Dallas Charter, along with the Essential Norms making such policies canon law for the Church in the U.S. The new Motu Proprio does not replace these documents.

8. What are the Charter and Essential Norms?
The Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People is a comprehensive set of commitments originally established by the USCCB in June 2002 for addressing allegations of sexual abuse of minors by Catholic clergy. The Essential Norms are particular canon law (meaning they apply to the Church in the United States) that ensure that each diocese/eparchy in the United States of America will have procedures in place to respond promptly to all allegations of sexual abuse of minors by clergy, including the use of lay review boards.

9. What does the Motu Proprio add to the Charter?
The Motu Proprio does many things beyond the Charter. Perhaps the most important is to provide a mandatory (not voluntary) process for Church investigations of complaints against bishops (not just priests and deacons) for sexual abuse of a minor. The Motu Proprio also addresses complaints against bishops for sexual acts involving adults regarded as vulnerable, and for mishandling or intentionally mishandling of such abuse or harassment cases. It mandates internal reporting of such cases, offers whistleblower protection for those reporting and prohibits any imposition of silence on those reporting.

10. The Motu Proprio appears to set a stronger baseline across the world, but one that is more or less already in place in the United States. How does this make children and
vulnerable adults in the U.S. safer than they already are?
The Holy Father’s Motu Proprio strengthens the protections already in place in the United States in at least three important ways: 1) It expands the definition of vulnerable adults to include seminarians and any person made to engage in sexual acts due to a power differential/abuse of power; 2) In establishing a process for investigating various forms of misconduct by bishops, it augments fraternal correction; 3) It requires internal up-the-line reporting and establishes whistleblower protections for anyone reporting a claim of abuse or its intentional mishandling of cases.

11. So, how did the Motu Proprio impact the proposals that were passed in June?
It is important to note that the Motu Proprio, as universal law, sets the parameters for the measures that we approved in June; the documents we approved all must be consistent with it.

In general, the Motu Proprio has strengthened current practice by
• establishing broad mandatory internal reporting,
• establishing whistleblower protection for those making those reports,
• expanding the definition of vulnerable adults to include anyone coerced into sexual acts through an abuse of power,
• and reiterating and clarifying that bishops are subject to the universal law of the Church that forbids sexual abuse and its intentional mishandling of cases.
• (NB: Participation in the Special Commission proposed last November would have been voluntary.) In addition, our vote in June means that the bishops
• will establish a national reporting system for complaints against bishops; Currently, complaints against bishops can go to law enforcement, the chancery, or directly to the nuncio. The third-party system will supplement these existing avenues and will facilitate and professionalize the process for gathering and reporting complaints.
• have placed themselves under the very same codes of conduct that hold their priests, deacons and employees accountable, which include prohibitions on sexual harassment and other sexual misconduct;
• have made more explicit the fraternal correction necessary when a brother bishop fails in his obligations to the people of God, such as restricting the privilege to participate in the USCCB.

12. I have heard the Pope’s Motu Proprio described as the “Metropolitan Model”? Is that a fair description of it? What is a Metropolitan?
If by that you mean the method for reporting complaints against bishops and the investigation of those complaints goes through a Metropolitan archbishop, then yes. A “metropolitan see” is an archdiocese that is the chief diocese of an ecclesiastical province, consisting of one or more additional dioceses. The archbishop who heads that province is called the Metropolitan. So, the new law from the Holy Father has structured the handling and investigation of complaints though the Metropolitan – or if the complaint is against the Metropolitan himself, through a senior bishop in the province (called a senior suffragan).
By making the office of Metropolitan the heart of the process, the Motu Proprio confers the advantage of making the local level paramount in drawing upon the existing resources of each area, including the laity.

13. What happened to the Special Commission proposed in November? To conform with the Motu Proprio, the new universal law issued by the Holy Father, the process must be channeled through the Metropolitan rather than a separate entity, such as the special commission proposed in November. Both models contemplate substantial lay involvement, but this model locates that involvement at the provincial, that is to say Metropolitan, level, rather than the national level.

14. There are general calls for greater lay involvement, but what will that look like exactly? Isn’t relying upon the Metropolitan just more of the same — bishops policing bishops?
No. The Motu Proprio explicitly permits the use of lay experts free from any conflict of interest; and in Affirming our Episcopal Commitments the bishops clearly state that they are “committed, when we receive or when we are authorized to investigate such cases to include the counsel of lay men and women whose professional backgrounds are indispensable.” Thus, the US bishops, based on almost two decades of experience relying on the wisdom and integrity of lay men and women in addressing abuse cases involving priests and deacons, are committed to do so in those cases involving bishops as well. Finally, the Motu Proprio also requires the Metropolitan himself to be free of any conflict of interest, which may mean the Holy See would assign a different bishop to lead an investigation.

15. Why doesn’t the Motu Proprio require lay involvement in a Metropolitan’s investigation of a complaint against a fellow bishop within his province?
In the United States, the professional expertise of the laity is regularly called upon. The Motu Proprio not only authorizes this but provides a process to structure the practice. It is important to recall that the Motu Proprio is written for the Church worldwide. Pope Francis is aware that the diverse regions of the world differ in terms of the resources that are available in them. At the same time, as we see in so many of Pope Francis’ other initiatives, he is continually finding ways to uplift the gifts and expertise of the laity as a means of enhancing their “coresponsibility.”

16. If the involvement of lay people in the investigation is not required by the Motu Proprio, how can there be any assurance that a Metropolitan will involve laity at all?
In Affirming our Episcopal Commitments the bishops clearly state that they are “committed, when we receive or when we are authorized to investigate such cases
to include the counsel of lay men and women whose professional backgrounds are
indispensable.” Thus, the bishops, based on almost two decades of experience relying on the wisdom and integrity of lay men and women, are committed to do so in those cases involving bishops as well. Bishops recognize that they need the specialized experience and expertise of the laity to perform investigations, and those qualities also give bishops great confidence in the results. We have already seen how this can work well. The Metropolitan Archbishop of New York instructed that the case of Theodore McCarrick be “thoroughly investigated by an independent forensic agency.” The resulting investigation was sent to the Holy See, and McCarrick was soon found guilty and laicized.

17. What assurance is there that these canonical requirements will be followed? For
example, what if a Metropolitan treats a very well-founded complaint as “manifestly
unfounded,” or if he simply does not act on a complaint?
Pope Francis has made it universal law that Metropolitans must report all claims, including those they have found “manifestly unfounded.” Moreover, interference with an investigation – such as not permitting a legitimate claim to go forward – is an actionable offense in canon law.

18. Will there be some kind of audit of compliance with the Motu Proprio, as there is with the Charter?
It is within the authority of the Holy See to oversee the implementation of the procedures. Since the new Motu Proprio was approved for a three-year period, we would expect that it will be reviewed in light of the experience with its implementation.

19. Under these proposals, wouldn’t McCarrick, as a Metropolitan archbishop, have simply ignored suggestions of lay oversight, or stacked any lay committee with friends who would turn a blind eye to his actions?
The answer is, “No,” for several reasons. The new procedures are written precisely to prevent the scenario just described. When a complaint is made against a Metropolitan archbishop, it does not go to his archdiocese for the investigation, but instead to the senior suffragan bishop by promotion in the province, thus another diocese than the archbishop’s. In addition, the Holy See could decide that the accusation should be investigated outside of that province. Furthermore, the norms uphold the need for impartiality on the part of the Metropolitan or senior suffragan bishop, as a matter of justice. Finally, every complaint is sent not only to the Metropolitan (or senior suffragan bishop) but also to the Holy See.

20. McCarrick was removed from the priesthood, but when will we see the results of the investigation into how he was able to climb the ranks of the Church?
In October of last year, the Holy See publicly announced they had launched a “thorough study of the entire documentation present in the Archives of the Dicasteries and Offices of the Holy See regarding the former Cardinal McCarrick”. A careful and thorough study necessarily takes time.

21. Will the status or results of investigations be made public?
The Church will be careful not to compromise an investigation or put the victim’s identity at risk. This may mean that public announcements would need to wait until the conclusion of the process, respecting the good name of the victim and the presumed innocence of the accused. The outcome must be fair and just. The person filing the complaint, however, is free to speak to anyone about the complaint.

22. Won’t this new reporting system result in a big increase in complaints, and even false accusations?
Maybe. But whether the number of total reports is great or small, the process is designed to sort out true and false accusations fairly. That process can be painful in many ways, especially for the falsely accused. But, because allowing for reports broadly is necessary to root out the evil of abuse, bishops are willing to risk false accusations. We cannot be above the system. Being open to a fair investigation will build trust for those exonerated.

23. Does the new law cover sexual harassment of adults?
Yes, if such harassment involved any sexual acts. Other forms of sexual harassment are covered by codes of conduct that already exist in dioceses and eparchies. The Motu Proprio does not interfere with these local codes of conduct.

24. Is this the strongest reform possible?
It is a strong next step. It builds upon prior steps implemented by the Church universally and in the United States to confront sexual abuse. Until the number of abuse cases is zero, the Church must continually strengthen protections. The word “crisis” is derived from the Greek word for “turning point.” Today, we turn toward conversion — turning closer to Christ and what He expects of His bishops —that is an ongoing process. After the U.S. bishops pass and implement the proposals, they will be further studied to identify gaps and develop further necessary reforms. Because the Motu Proprio is in effect for three years, we expect that the Holy See will be following a similar process of evaluation and discernment.

25. Does what you voted on mean the bishops are included in the Charter now? Why not?
Beginning with the Statement of Episcopal Commitment, which followed shortly after the Charter (2002), the bishops have subjected themselves to the requirements of the Charter, within the limits of Church law regarding bishops.

26. Do we have to wait for the third-party reporting system (the hotline) to be set up to make a complaint against a bishop?
No. Complaints can be made right now to local law enforcement, the chancery, the Papal Nuncio, or to the Holy See directly. Those avenues of reporting will continue to be available. The third-party system will simply provide another means of reporting that will make the process simpler in the future.

27. Did the procedure you voted on only apply to future complaints about bishops?
No. All complaints about past actions fall under both the Motu Proprio and under the new measures we have taken.

28. Did you vote for zero tolerance for bishops? Will they be temporarily removed from
service if they are accused?
We did not vote on this because we cannot. This will be determined on a case by case by the proper authorities in Rome, as only the Holy Father can discipline a bishop.

29. Is the person receiving a complaint as part of the third-party reporting system the same person who makes a judgment on the complaint?
No. The third-party hotline is merely a service for gathering information that is then passed on for evaluation to the appropriate Metropolitan/Suffragan.

30. Is the third-party reporting system to be used for any complaint against a bishop – say of financial abuse? Or is it just for issues of sexual abuse and the intentional mishandling of sexual abuse cases?
The third-party reporting system is for complaints of sexual abuse and the intentional mishandling up of sexual abuse because this is what the Motu Proprio calls for. Other serious complaints against bishops should be sent to law enforcement where applicable, the local chancery, the Papal Nuncio and/or the Holy See directly.

Update on Father Michael Juran

In November 2018, the Diocese of Buffalo released a statement concerning allegations of the sexual abuse of minors by Rev. Michael P. Juran, placing him on administrative leave pending the outcome of an investigation. Father Juran is a priest of the Diocese of Buffalo, who resides within the Diocese of St. Petersburg. He served as Parochial Vicar of St. Stephen Parish from 2006 to 2011 but has not possessed the faculties of the Diocese of St. Petersburg since 2011.

Recently, Bishop Richard Malone informed the Diocese of St. Petersburg that an investigation has been completed and presented to the Review Board for the Diocese of Buffalo. He has determined that the allegation has been substantiated and that Father Juran will remain on administrative leave while the results of the investigation are reviewed by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, in Rome. Parishioners of St. Stephen Parish received notification about Father Juran the weekend of June 8-9, 2019.

Victims of abuse are encouraged to report crimes to local law enforcement and the Florida Department of Children and Families Abuse Hotline at (800) 962-2873. They may also wish to contact Mr. John Lambert, the diocesan Victim Assistance Minister at (866) 407-4505 or by e-mail: jl@dosp.org.

U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Release 2018 Annual Report On The Protection Of Children And Young People

WASHINGTON—The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Secretariat of Child and Youth Protection has released their 2018 Annual Report – Findings and Recommendations on the Implementation of the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.

The report is based on the audit findings of StoneBridge Business Partners, a specialty consulting firm headquartered in Rochester, New York, which provides forensic, internal, and compliance audit services to leading organization nation-wide.

A survey on allegations conducted by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate is also included as part of the report. The 2018 report for audit year July 1, 2017 – June 30, 2018, states that 1,385 adults came forward with 1,455 allegations. Compared to 2017, the number of allegations has increased significantly due to the additional allegations received in five New York State dioceses as a result of the implementation of their Independent Reconciliation and Compensation programs.

Additional data on allegations provided by CARA’s annual survey shows that more than nine in ten alleged offenders (92 percent) identified during the survey year were already deceased, already removed from ministry, already laicized or missing. Most abuse reported occurred between 1960 and 1990, with a peak in the 1970s.

Twenty-six new allegations involving current minors were reported during the audit period. As of June 30, 2018, three were substantiated and the clergy were removed from ministry. These allegations came from three different dioceses. Seven allegations were unsubstantiated as of June 30, 2018. Three were categorized as “unable to be proven” and investigations were still in process for six of the allegations as of June 30, 2018. For the remaining seven allegations involving minors, two were referred to a religious order, two were reported as unknown clerics, and three were not claims of sexual abuse, but were boundary violations.

During the audit period, dioceses and eparchies provided outreach and support to 472 victims/survivors and their families who reported during this audit period. Continued support was provided to 1,542 victims/survivors and their families who reported abuse in prior audit periods. Support may include counseling, spiritual assistance, support groups, and other social services.
The report also notes the ongoing work of the Church in continuing the call to ensure the safety of children and vulnerable adults. In 2018, over 2.6 million background checks were conducted on Church clerics, employees, and volunteers. In addition, in 2018 over 2.6 million adults and 3.9 million children and youth have also been trained on how to identify the warning signs of abuse and how to report those signs.

Regarding Charter Compliance, the report noted the following:
StoneBridge Business Partners, the auditor, visited 72 dioceses/eparchies and collected data from 122 others.
All dioceses/eparchies were found compliant except for the Diocese of Lincoln, who was found non-compliant with Article 7 of the Charter.
Three eparchies did not participate including the Eparchy of St. Mary Queen of Peace, the Eparchy of St. Peter the Apostle, and the Eparchy of Phoenix

The Committee on the Protection of Children and Young People continues to emphasize that the audit and maintaining zero-tolerance policies are two important tools in the Church’s broader program of creating a culture of protection and healing that exceeds the requirements of the Charter.

This is the sixteenth such report since 2002 when the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops approved the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, making a promise to protect and a pledge to heal.

The full Annual Report can be found here: http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/child-and-youth-protection/child-abuse-prevention/upload/2018-CYP-Annual-Report.pdf

The Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People can be found here: www.usccb.org/charter

Additional information on diocesan requirements can be found here:

http://www.usccb.org/about/communications/bishops-resources/upload/cyp-norms-bulletin-insert.pdf 

President of U.S. Bishops’ Conference Issues Statement on Pope Francis’s Motu Proprio Ordering Worldwide Response to the Evil of Sexual Abuse

Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, Archbishop of Galveston-Houston and President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, has issued the following statement regarding the release of Pope Francis’s Motu Proprio earlier today. The Motu Proprio, Vos estis lux mundi (“You are the light of the world”), is a worldwide order to the Church from the Pope, in response to the evil of sexual abuse. The new law comes after a meeting in Rome that brought together all episcopal conference presidents from across the globe to discuss the Church sex abuse crisis. (Related Artice from the Vatican News website)

Cardinal DiNardo’s full statement follows:

“Today, Pope Francis ordered a worldwide response to the evil of sexual abuse. It calls for the establishment of easily accessible reporting systems, clear standards for the pastoral support of victims and their families, timeliness and thoroughness of investigations, whistleblower protection for those making allegations, and active involvement of the laity. It also leaves latitude for national bishops’ conferences, such as the USCCB, to specify still more to account for their local circumstances. We receive the Motu Proprio Vos estis lux mundi (‘You are the light of the world’) as a blessing that will empower the Church everywhere to bring predators to justice, no matter what rank they hold in the Church. It also permits the Church the time and opportunity to bring spiritual healing.

The Holy Father said a ‘continuous and profound conversion of hearts is needed, attested by concrete and effective actions that involve everyone in the Church.’ Pope Francis was clear that this responsibility ‘falls, above all, on the successors of the Apostles.’ As part of this responsibility, bishops also will be held accountable under the authority of this Motu Proprio, which covers sexual abuse of minors or vulnerable persons, sexual acts compelled through the abuse of authority, and any coverup of such crimes.

In publishing this new law, which is applicable to the Church throughout the world, Pope Francis has made clear that protection and healing must reach all of God’s children. Following on the meeting just two months ago of all episcopal conference presidents, the Motu Proprio shows Pope Francis expects swift and comprehensive progress. For the Church in the United States, the task before us now is to establish whatever is necessary to ensure the effective implementation of the Motu Proprio. Our committees have already begun the work of preparing implementation measures for deliberation at the USCCB Plenary Assembly in June. 

I am grateful for the opportunity to build upon the excellent foundation of the USCCB’s Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, the Essential Norms for Diocesan/Eparchial Policies Dealing with Sexual Abuse of Minors by Priests or Deacons, and the Statement of Episcopal Commitment, all of which date back to 2002. The existing framework in the United States including victim outreach, zero tolerance, reporting allegations to civil authorities, and lay expertise on review boards, among other measures – positions us readily to bring the Holy Father’s instructions to action. By embracing the painful experience of survivors and working on these new protections, let us pray we continue to grow into a stronger Church.”

Pope Francis Establishes New Rules for the Whole Church To Strengthen Protections for Children and Vulnerable Persons

Pope Francis has issued a document known as a Motu Proprio called Vos estis lux  Mundi (You are the Light of the World) that establishes new procedures for reporting abuse and violence and ensures that Bishops and Religious Superiors are held accountable for their actions. (Related article from the Vatican)

This is an opportunity to build upon the foundation of our local diocesan policies and the  USCCB’s Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, the Essential Norms for Diocesan/Eparchial Policies Dealing with Sexual Abuse of Minors by Priests or Deacons, and the Statement of Episcopal Commitment, all of which date back to 2002 or earlier. The existing framework in the United States includes victim outreach, zero tolerance, reporting allegations to civil authorities, lay expertise on review boards, and other measures. Learn more about our Safe Environment Program here. 

Read the Motu Proprio here.

Q & A on the Motu Proprio from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops is found below.

What does the new Motu Proprio do?
 The new Motu Proprio Vos estis lux mundi is a significant move forward for the universal Church, one that echoes many of the practices established in the U.S. Bishops’ Essential Norms and the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People that have been in force in the United States since 2002.  For example, it affirms the existing:

  • Commitment to provide for the spiritual and emotional well-being of victims/ survivors and their families;
  • Duty to comply with all applicable civil laws with respect to the reporting of allegations of sexual abuse of minors to civil authorities;
  • Right of any person to report such crimes;
  • Guarantee of a prompt and objective investigation;
  • Assurance of lay involvement

The Motu Proprio also continues to focus on victims by significantly building upon existing local practices, for example by expanding the scope of cases to include:

  • The sexual abuse of a new classification of “vulnerable persons,”
  • The use of violence or other abuse of power to perform or submit to sexual acts,
  • Any cover up of such conduct by other;
  • Those who are to be reported for such cases, namely, cardinals, bishops, other clerics, religious superiors, and other members of institutes of consecrated life or societies of apostolic life;
  • Reporting obligations to include mandatory, internal reporting;
  • Safeguards against retaliation or discrimination by mandating “whistle-blower” protections

When do these norms take effect?

  • They will take effect on June 1, 2019;
  • They will be reviewed by the Holy See after three years and adjusted as needed;
  • Every diocese and eparchy (either individually or collectively) is to have a publicly accessible means for people to report cases covered under the Motu Proprio by June 1, 2020. In the United States, while this has already been accomplished for cases involving the sexual abuse of minors by priests and deacons, reporting mechanisms will have to be modified to serve the broader categories of the Motu Proprio.

What about cases of sexual misconduct that do not fall under this Motu Proprio?
These are generally already covered by existing diocesan or eparchial codes of conduct.  With the help of lay and legal experts, bishops are working on ways to ensure that coverage and enhance awareness and reporting mechanisms for such cases.

 How are transparency and confidentiality promoted in this new Motu Proprio?
The Motu Proprio increases transparency by establishing clear procedures that must be followed, reaffirming the obligation to report to civil authorities, providing for lay involvement in internal investigations, protecting from possible conflicts of interest, and ensuring that those who report complaints to the Church are also free to report the same information to others and are protected from retaliation.  At the same time, because the Motu Proprio involves the investigation of a complaint, it carefully balances the rights of those involved.  Confidentiality is needed for the effectiveness of the investigation. It protects victims and witnesses, as well as the presumption of innocence and the seal of the confessional.

Does this new Motu Proprio interfere or hinder civil law, such as mandatory reporting requirements and civil investigations?
In no way.  The Motu Proprio establishes the canonical (Church law) procedures that are to be followed.  Included in these procedures, however, is the obligation to comply with all applicable civil laws.

(Additional Info: The Diocese of St. Petersburg Policy for the Protection of Children and Vulnerable Adults states that all are to “Call in all reports of actual or suspected abuse to the local law enforcement agency (911) or to the state Department of Children and Families (DCF) Abuse Hotline Registry: 1-800-96ABUSE (1-800-962-2873).”) Read our policy here.)

Zero tolerance is not mentioned.  Is that no longer the policy of the Catholic Church?
In the United States, zero tolerance has been the policy since 2002, which comes from the Charter and the Essential Norms.  The Motu Proprio does not undo this policy.  Other episcopal conferences around the world have or will be developing policies appropriate to their legal and cultural situations.  The good news here is that what was first thought of as an “American problem” or a “Western problem” is now on everyone’s radar.

 Why does the Motu Proprio focus on the role of the Metropolitan?

  • The Motu Proprio uses the Metropolitan because it is a position in the Church that is grounded in tradition and the teaching of Vatican II and is governed by existing canon law.
  • This also allows investigations to be carried out on the local level, where the Metropolitan will have more direct access to information, documents, and lay experts to help investigate, and can collaborate with civil authorities. The Metropolitan, being local, can also take measures to preserve and secure evidence.
  • Recent investigations of misconduct by a bishop, such as in West Virginia, have successfully followed this practice.

What does this mean for the proposals the U.S. bishops considered last November?

The work of our committees that has already taken place will be examined and adapted to work within the framework of the new Motu Proprio and will be the basis for deliberation over its implementation at the USCCB Plenary Assembly in June.

Source: United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

Q & A available online with statement at www.usccb.org

Statement Regarding Father George B. Dyer, O.P., a Deceased Priest Who Served in the Diocese of St. Petersburg Between 1980-1981

The Diocese of St. Petersburg has learned that George B. Dyer, O.P., has been listed in a recent report released by Jeff Anderson & Associates, P.A., as a priest against whom an allegation of the sexual abuse of a minor in the State of Illinois has been deemed credible. Father Dyer was ordained in 1961 for the Dominican Order.  Among his many assignments, he served as Pastor of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Tampa from October 1, 1980 to March 30, 1981.  Father Dyer was removed from active ministry in 2006 and died in 2013.

Anyone who is aware of abuse is urged to report the crime to local law enforcement.  Pastoral assistance may also be obtained by contacting the Diocese of St. Petersburg Victim Assistance Minister at (866) 407-4505.

We continue to pray for all people whose lives have been wounded by crimes of abuse.  We denounce all forms of sexual abuse by any person or any institution as a reprehensible crime and believe that perpetrators should be punished to the fullest extent of the law.

Statement from Bishop Gregory Parkes on the “Meeting on the Protection of Minors in the Church”

“The historic Meeting on the Protection of Minors in the Church enabled the global leadership of the Catholic Church to clearly hear the voices of victims of sexual abuse. Those voices will forever influence our decisions so that no one will again feel the pain of being abused and the additional wounds of being abandoned or ignored.

I too have met with and heard from victim survivors and I commit to doing all that I can to seek justice for these brave men and women and to provide healing through counseling and pastoral support.

While the evil of child sexual abuse infects our entire society, and while the Church has made great progress in accountability and setting standards for a safe environment, we must do more within the Church and within society to make the protection of children our top priority.

As Pope Francis said, ‘if in the Church there should emerge even a single case of abuse – which already in itself represents an atrocity – that case will be faced with the utmost seriousness.’”

BACKGROUND

Nearly 200 cardinals, bishops and religious superiors from around the world attended the “Meeting on the Protection of Minors in the Church” at the Vatican Feb. 21-24.  Pope Francis has mandated that participants come up with “concrete” initiatives at a local level to help the Church in protecting minors. The pope pointed to the work of international organizations in their “Seven Strategies for Ending Violence against Children” and guidelines and other resources produced by the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors. The U.S. bishops are meeting June 9-14 to discuss concrete measures for the U.S.

At a press briefing following the conclusion of the meeting, Fr. Federico Lombardi, Moderator of the Meeting, announced three Vatican-led initiatives:

  1. The imminent publication of a Motu proprio by the Pope, providing rules and regulations to safeguard minors and vulnerable adults within Vatican City State.
  2. The distribution of a “vademecum” (or rulebook) to Bishops around the world, explaining their juridical and pastoral duties and responsibilities with regard to protecting children.
  3. The creation of an operative “task force”, comprising competent experts, to assist those Bishops’ Conferences that may lack the necessary resources or expertise to confront the issue of safeguarding minors, and deal with abuse.

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