Roster of Statements


The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests

SNAP Press Statement

For immediate release: Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Pope revises sex-abuse norms; SNAP responds

Statement by Barbara Dorris, outreach director of SNAP, Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (314-503-0003)

There needs to be massive overhaul, not mere tweaking, of how the church deals with abuse and cover up.

How quickly predator priests are defrocked isn't the crux of the crisis. Church officials, not church policy, are the crux of the crisis. As long as bishops can ignore and conceal child sex crimes without punishment, they'll keep ignoring and concealing child sex crimes.

We don't need minor changes to church policy but massive changes to church practice and culture. History has shown that in this secretive, ancient, rigid all-male monarchy, abuse policies are widely ignored.

Once again, church officials fixate on the 'tail end' of the crisis, and not on the front end. The focus needs to be on catching predators more quickly, involving secular law enforcement, and preventing recklessness and deceit by bishops, who can, and should take many steps to protect the vulnerable long before the defrocking process begins.

Defrocking predators more quickly is no panacea. Its main impact is limiting the legal liability of church officials. There should never be a statute of limitations on child sex crimes or cover ups- not in civil, criminal or canon law. Twenty years beats ten years of course, but increasing access to a secretive, corrupt system isn't much reform.

(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the world's oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. We've been around for 22 years and have more than 9,000 members. Despite the word "priest" in our title, we have members who were molested by religious figures of all denominations, including nuns, rabbis, bishops, and Protestant ministers. Our website is

Contact David Clohessy (314-566-9790 cell, [email protected]), Barbara Blaine (312-399-4747 cell, [email protected]), Barbara Dorris (314-862-7688 home, 314-503-0003 cell, [email protected]), Peter Isely (414-429-7259, [email protected])

JULY 6, 2010, 9:44 A.M. ET

Pope Revises Sex-Abuse Norms

VATICAN CITY—Pope Benedict XVI has revised the Vatican's sex-abuse norms in a bid to streamline the Holy See's handling of cases world-wide and hold more clerics accused of abuse accountable under church law, according to people familiar with the matter.

In a rare move, Pope Benedict recently approved revisions to a papal decree, or motu proprio, issued by his predecessor John Paul II in 2001, establishing Vatican procedures for prosecuting and disciplining priests accused of sexual abuse, the people said.

The revisions will double the statute of limitations on priests accused to 20 years from the alleged victim's 18th birthday, the people said. In addition, the changes will give procedures, currently used by the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to speed up clear-cut cases of abuse, the force of papal authority, the people said. The Vatican is expected to announce the revisions "within the next two weeks," one person said.

The changes, which were first reported Tuesday on the website of the National Catholic Reporter, mark the most concrete measures Pope Benedict has taken yet to address the sex-abuse crisis that has rocked his papacy this year. For a decade, Pope Benedict has been involved in shaping the Vatican's response to cases of sexual-abuse as both pope and the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican's disciplinary office.

In 2001, the pope, then known as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, helped draft John Paul II's motu proprio and issued an accompanying letter explaining the norms to bishops world-wide. In 2003, then-Cardinal Ratzinger introduced a set of norms, known as the "special faculties," that allowed the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to skip the costly and time-consuming step of a canonical trial in disciplining some abusive priests. Those norms, however, lacked the formal authority of a papal decree.

The forthcoming revisions have been in the works for years, one person said. However, the explosion of sex-abuse cases across Europe, including in the pope's native Germany, has turned up pressure on the Vatican to act. In one particularly sensitive case, the pope himself came under tough scrutiny for his handling of a priest known to church officials as a sex-abuser in the late 1970s, when the pope was archbishop of Munich.

During a recent visit to Malta, Pope Benedict met with victims of abuse and pledged to take measures aimed at fighting sexual abuse, but he didn't elaborate. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith also issued guidelines further explaining current Vatican norms, including the Vatican's requirement for church officials to comply with civil laws in reporting abuse.

The doubling of the Vatican's statute of limitations on sex-abuse aims to address concerns that many victims come forward decades after the abuse occurs. That has made it difficult for civil and church authorities to take action against abusive priests in many cases.

Write to Stacy Meichtry at [email protected]

Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests