SNAP responds to updated guidelines in the handling of clergy sexual abuse of minors
(For Immediate Release June 28, 2022)
Two years after launching “Version 1.0” of guidelines for how bishops, religious superiors, and canon lawyers are expected to handle complaints of alleged abuse by clergy, the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith has released an update. In a disappointing fashion, this update does not strengthen any existing requirements because the update is a mere suggestion without any teeth to enforce it. We are frustrated that “reforms” from the Vatican continue to lack the very clear and direct asks that survivors have been making for years.
The update to the “Vademecum on Certain Points of Procedure in Treating Cases of Sexual Abuse of Minors Committed by Clerics” "does not have the power of law," according to a dicastery statement released on June 27; rather, it " is intended to respond to a growing need for knowledge" regarding the processes to be followed when allegations of abuse are made.
To us, this is meaningless and is a continuance of what we have known for decades, that church officials can continue to make their own decisions regardless of what the Vatican announces publicly. There is no “growing need for knowledge:” reports from myriad countries and states already contain the experiences of survivors and their demands for reform, and these reports have made it clear that clergy sexual abuse remains a worldwide problem. That the Vatican continues to see “a growing need for knowledge” in how to respond to cases of sexual abuse is beyond worrying – to us, it is a signal they are willfully ignorant.
New examples of sexual abuse of children and adults by those in positions of power are reported every day from all around the world. What specifically does their understanding lack if a " growing need for knowledge " cannot be observed through government committees established to investigate abuse inside the church or the startling findings of attorney general investigations?
What is especially concerning is that these new rules appear to demonstrate that church officials around the world are still considering legitimate allegations false. This latest update added a sentence that said, "The anonymity of the source should not automatically lead to considering the report as false," when the charter rules were released in 2020. The revised standards reiterated this statement and added the following: "The source's anonymity should not automatically lead to the conclusion that the information is untrue, particularly if it is supported by material that attests to the possibility of a delict."
This is a huge concern for us and makes us wonder how many cases of abuse were automatically dismissed because an individual wished to remain anonymous, or the church refused to provide them the documentation they know exists. We can only assume that this number of cases is as large as this “update” is minimal.
CONTACT: Mike McDonnell, SNAP Communications Manager([email protected], 267-261-0578), Melanie Sakoda, SNAP Survivor Support Coordinator ([email protected], 925-708-6175) Zach Hiner, SNAP Executive Director ([email protected], 517-974-9009)
(SNAP, the Survivors Network, has been providing support for victims of sexual abuse in institutional settings for 30 years. We have more than 25,000 survivors and supporters in our network. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)