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Vatican's online rules say abusive priests to be handed to civil authorities

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2010-04-12

In its online guidelines for handling sex abuse cases posted Monday, the Vatican said paedophilia cases should be reported to civil authorities and that the Pope can intervene to defrock offenders.

AFP - Priest sex abusers should "always" be turned in to civil authorities, the Vatican said Monday in guidelines on handling paedophilia cases posted on its website.
"Civil law concerning reporting of crimes to the appropriate authorities should always be followed," state the guidelines compiled from existing Vatican rules.
The document also confirms that the pope can intervene directly to defrock the worst offenders.
"In very grave cases where a civil criminal trial has found the cleric guilty of sexual abuse of minors or where the evidence is overwhelming," the pope may issue a decree to remove him from the priesthood, it says.
"If the allegation has a semblance of truth the case is referred to the CDF," its says, referring to the Vatican's morals watchdog, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
"There is no canonical remedy against such a papal decree," add the guidelines, drawn from the Church's canon law and a papal instruction signed in 2001 by then Pope John Paul II.
The decree on "serious crimes" was drafted by the CDF when it was headed by then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger -- now Pope Benedict XVI.
The Vatican announced Friday that it would post the guidelines as a way of helping Roman Catholic authorities deal with predator priests.
It said the guidelines, published in English only, were a summary of operational procedures that were set down in an internal CDF document in 2003.
Large-scale paedophilia scandals have rocked the Catholic Churches of Ireland, Austria, the United States and the pope's native Germany in recent months.
The pontiff, who turns 83 on Friday, has himself faced allegations that he failed to take action against predator priests both as head of the CDF and earlier as the archbishop of Munich.
On Friday he faced fresh charges that he dragged his feet over defrocking a predator priest in California.
The same day the Canadian Church was hit by revelations that bishops sought to hide a paedophile priest's crimes by urging the Vatican not to promote him some 20 years ago.
Norway joined the list of churches embroiled in scandal last Wednesday with the disclosure that one of Norway's former bishops, the German-born Georg Mueller, had abused a choirboy in the early 1990s.

Date created : 2010-04-12


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