In “You are the Light of the World,” Pope Francis has set forth regulations today that will lead the Catholic Church on a clearer and more honest path in responding to the problem of sexual abuse in the Church. As the Holy Father wrote, these universally-adopted procedures will be implemented quickly and effectively to “prevent and combat these crimes that betray the trust of the faithful.” I am grateful to the Holy Father for these norms, and confident they will be helpful to the Church as we move forward in addressing these challenges.
In these regulations, dioceses without easily-accessible systems of reporting crimes in the Church are mandated to create them; any clergy member with reason to believe sexual abuse is occurring in any way must report it immediately; discrimination or prejudice against those who report such abuse is prohibited; and lucid standards for the support of victims and their families have been established.
The Holy Father also made clear that bishops will be held accountable not only for acts of sexual abuse but also for any actions or omissions which impair investigations of these matters. Any report against a bishop will be forwarded to the Metropolitan Office (the Archdiocese of Boston in the case of Maine) for an independent investigation. As always, civil authorities will be notified of any claim of sexual abuse of a minor against any member of the clergy, including a bishop.
I am encouraged by and grateful for Pope Francis’ actions. To confront the evil of sexual abuse requires concrete actions involving everyone in the Church, including the committed involvement of the laity. These evils have obscured the face of the Church, but these new measures will put stronger protections in place against predators and anyone complicit with their actions. In the coming weeks, the Diocese of Portland will be announcing new means by which reporting of such crimes can be made to the Diocese. As well, I look forward to discussing the implementation of this important document in our own country at the June meeting of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. As your bishop, it is gratifying, however, to report that the protocols already implemented in the Diocese of Portland, and the vigilance of clergy and laity, have helped to make our Church a safer place for all.
In this time of Pope Francis’ inspired call for change, I am reminded of what does not change. God and his abundant love are always with us. That is the message of hope we receive in the Risen Jesus. We ask, in a special way, for the Lord’s consolation for the victims/survivors of sexual abuse and their families.
NOTE: As always, Bishop Deeley encourages anyone who may have information about any case of sexual abuse of a minor by a church representative to contact civil authorities as well as Michael Magalski, Director of the Office of Professional Responsibility for the Diocese of Portland, at (207) 321-7836 or [email protected].