At the initiative of pope Francis, the Vatican published Thursday, instructions at the destination of the ecclesiastical on the procedure to be followed to investigate on suspicion of sexual assault on minors within the Church.
The pope is argentine, who has made the fight against this scourge in the catholic Church one of the priorities of his pontificate, was convened in February 2019 a peak unprecedented gathering including 114 presidents of bishops ‘ conferences.
On this occasion he was committed to ” provide uniform guidelines for the Church “, referring to prior to any of the legal references that are already in force in the civil and canonical.
The documents released on Thursday did not propose any new standards, nor does it have the vocation to substitute the justice of the catholic Church in the judicial process, says the Vatican.
Gathered in the ” vade-mecum “, they are an “instrument” intended to assist the local authorities of the Church, “in the delicate task of properly conduct cases involving deacons, priests and bishops when they are accused of abuse of minors,” said the Spanish cardinal Luis Ladaria Ferrer, prefect of the Congregation of the Faith in Rome, in a press release.
The Vatican has in particular developed a form of reporting of crime. The manager alerted must inform the identity of the priest suspected, its various departments, the date of the facts and the name or names of the alleged victims, the measures taken by the ecclesiastical authority, and, in the case of criminal proceedings, the name of the attorney and lawyers seized.
The Church has for many years been in turmoil with the successive revelations on scandals, massive assault, child pornography, committed for decades by priests or religious, and often covered by their hierarchy in several countries, including the United States, in Chile or in Germany.
In France, cardinal Philippe Barbarin has been sentenced in 2019, for his silence on the actions of a former priest of the diocese of lyon, Bernard Preynat, himself convicted for sexual assaults on minors.
But Archbishop Barbarin was then acquitted on appeal in January this year before resigning his duties as archbishop in march.
Absolute secrecy of confession
Pope Francis, according to which these drifts are of the clergy, “an instrument of Satan,” was taken a step further last December by raising the pontifical secrecy, while maintaining a minimum of privacy.
The pontifical secrecy, also sometimes called the secret of the pope, is a rule of confidentiality, protecting sensitive information relating to the governance of the universal Church, according to the definition of the site The catholic forum.
This secret lifted, complaints, testimonies, denunciations, must now be transferred to the courts.
The sovereign pontiff has, however, repeatedly stated that there was a limit impossible to overcome: the secret of the confession remains absolute, which excludes, therefore, a denunciation of the facts reported by a member of the faithful in the confessional.
The guidelines published Thursday confirmed it. “Information delictum gravius [serious offence] learned in confession is placed under the most strict of the sacramental seal “.
The confessor is simply encouraged to “try to convince the penitent” to alert persons in a position to bring the case to court.