A line of rigour

European bishops on the new "Normae de gravioribus delictis"

Past July 15 the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith published modifications on the so-called “Normae de gravioribus delictis” (norms concerning the most serious crimes), namely a set of regulations providing for the intervention of the Vatican dicastery in the case of crimes against the Sacraments of the Eucharist and of Penance and in the cases of child sexual abuse by members of the Church. European Churches positively welcomed the document. Follow the statements to this regard by the Irish, German and Swiss bishops’ conferences.Ireland: it protects the more vulnerable brackets Bishop John McAreavey, Bishop of Dromore and co-chair of the Bishops’ Council for Communications, has welcomed the publication of the new Normae. “The Catholic Church – he stated in a note – has a body of law, canon law, to help promote the common good and for the consistent governance of the Church throughout the world”. The new Norms “strengthens parts of the Church’s law and covers all of the breaches of law considered to be exceptionally serious. I very much welcome this comprehensive and updated publication which will help us deal with the very serious crime and sin of child sexual abuse”. Bishop McAreavey values the fact that that “the new Norms refer to sanctions against abusers of vulnerable adults, including those with special needs of any age. By placing this abuse on a par with the abuse of children and young people, the Church wishes to highlight the dignity of those with special needs and its desire to keep them safe”. The bishop equally welcomes “the making explicit of the crime of paedophile pornography relating to the ‘acquisition, possession or disclosure’ by a member of the clergy. In this way the Church wishes to highlight the horrendous degradation of children used in the production of pornographic materials”. For Msgr. McAreavey, the document issued July 15 “reflects the ongoing commitment by the Holy See”, which “is working on further instructions for bishops, so that the directives it issues on the subject of sexual abuse of minors, whether by clergy or in institutions connected with the Church, may be increasingly rigorous, coherent and effective”. Whilst pointing out that complying with civil law procedures is already provided for in the articles of Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’ Guidelines, Msgr. McAreavey underlined that “this has been the policy in the Irish Church since 1996”.Germany: a clear signal Msgr. Robert Zollitsch, President of the German Bishops’ Conference (DBK), said he is “grateful” for the modifications to the document “Delicta graviora” issued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The more rapid procedures, extending the statute of limitation of crimes linked to paedophilia to 20 years, are the highlights of the revised norms of the document adopted by the Congregation in 2001. “Notably”, Zolltish said, “I welcome the fact that given the cases of child sexual abuse, which has involved also the German Church, the Congregation is giving a clear signal providing full information and punishment for such crimes”. “The new document issued by the Congregation is a univocal declaration in support of the victims of abuse and crime in the ecclesial environment. I am grateful to the Congregation for this. Once more it is evident that the German Church and the Universal Church follow the same path. Past injustices are digested and consequences are drawn for the present and for the future”, Zollitsch concluded. Switzerland: appreciation for the new measures Msgr. Felix Gmür, secretary general of the Swiss Bishops’ Conferences issued a statement in which he expresses his appreciation of the new norms. “The Swiss Bishops’ Conference’s commitment in combating all forms of sexual abuse finds support in the Vatican’s consistent behaviour”, the document states. “In particular the Swiss bishops conveyed their positive evaluation of the extension of the statute of limitation from ten to twenty years in case of sexual abuse on minors and the firm condemnation of paedophile pornography. Indeed, the procedures are now more rapid and effective. Also the Swiss Bishops’ Conference radically opposes all forms of sexual attacks in pastoral care”, underlines the communique’, which recalls that in the plenary held past June, the directives to this regard were “revised and tightened”. “Sexual violence is a crime, and sexual violence on children is an odious crime. There can be no place in the Church for such deeds”, the document concludes.

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