Thursday, February 21, 2019

Archbishop Scicluna at Vatican Meeting against Abuse "... the community be advised that they have the duty and the right to report sexual misconduct..." FULL TEXT + Video

21 February 2019
 Charles J Scicluna
Archbishop of Malta
Adjunct Secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
Taking Responsibility for Processing Cases of Sexual Abuse Crisis and for
Prevention of Abuse
The way we Bishops exercise our ministry at the service of justice in our
communities is one of the fundamental tests of our stewardship and, indeed, of our
fidelity. To quote the Lord in Luke 12:48: “Everyone to whom much is given, of
him will much be required; and of him to whom men commit much, they will
demand more.” We have been entrusted with the care of our people. It is our sacred
duty to protect our people and to ensure justice when they have been abused.
In his letter to the People of God in Ireland, issued on 19 March 2010, Pope Benedict
XVI had this to say: “Only by examining carefully the many elements that gave rise
to the present crisis can a clear-sighted diagnosis of its causes be undertaken and
effective remedies be found. Certainly, among the contributing factors we can
include: inadequate procedures for determining the suitability of candidates for the
priesthood and the religious life; insufficient human, moral, intellectual and spiritual

formation in seminaries and novitiates; a tendency in society to favour the clergy
and other authority figures; and a misplaced concern for the reputation of the Church
and the avoidance of scandal, resulting in failure to apply existing canonical
penalties and to safeguard the dignity of every person. Urgent action is needed to
address these factors, which have had such tragic consequences in the lives of
victims and their families, and have obscured the light of the Gospel to a degree that
not even centuries of persecution succeeded in doing.” (n. 4b)
My address this morning intends to go through the main phases of processes of
individual cases of sexual abuse of minors by members of the clergy with some
practical suggestions dictated by prudence, best practice, and the paramount
concern for the safeguarding of the innocence of our children and young people.
Reporting Sexual Misconduct
The first phase is the Reporting of Sexual Misconduct. It is essential that the
community be advised that they have the duty and the right to report sexual
misconduct to a contact person in the diocese or religious order. These contact
details should be in the public domain. It is advisable that if and when a case of
misconduct is referred directly to the Bishop or Religious Superior, they refer the
information to the designated contact person. In every case and for all the phases of
dealing with cases these two points should be followed at all times: i) protocols
established should be respected. ii) civil or domestic laws should be obeyed. It is
important that every allegation is investigated with the help of experts and that the
investigation is concluded without unnecessary delay. The discernment of the
ecclesiastical authority should be collegial. In a number of local churches review
boards or safeguarding commissions have been established and this experience has
proved to be beneficial. It is such a relief for us bishops when we are able to share
our sorrow, our pain and frustration as we face the terrible effects of the misconduct
of some of our priests. Expert advice brings light and comfort and helps us arrive at
decisions that are based on scientific and professional competence. Tackling cases
as they arise in a synodal or collegial setting will give the necessary energy to
bishops to reach out in a pastoral way to the victims, the accused priests, the
community of the faithful and indeed to society at large. All these persons require
special attention and the Bishop and Religious Superior needs to extend his pastoral
solicitude to them either in person or through his delegates. As shepherds of the
Lord’s flock we should not underestimate the need to confront ourselves with the
deep wounds inflicted on victims of sex abuse by members of the clergy. They are
wounds of a psychological and spiritual nature that need tending with care. In my
many meetings with victims around the world I have come to realise that this is
sacred ground where we meet Jesus on the Cross. This is a Via Crucis we bishops
and other Church leaders cannot miss. We need to be Simon of Cyrene helping
victims, with whom Jesus identifies himself (Matt. 25), carry their heavy cross.
Investigating Cases of Sexual Misconduct
According to the Motu Propio Sacramentorum Sanctitatis tutela the result of the
investigation of sexual misconduct of clergy with minors under the age of 18 years
should be referred to the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith. In these cases the
Ordinary is authorized by Canon Law to apply precautionary measures (CIC 1722)
limiting or prohibiting the exercise of ministry. The Ordinary should consult his
canonical experts in all cases of sexual misconduct so that referral is done when it
needs to be done and proper procedures are adopted on the local level when the case
is not reserved to the Holy See (for example, when misconduct occurs between
consenting adults). Experts will furthermore help the Bishop or Religious Superior
share all the necessary information with the CDF and will help him express his
advice on the merits of the allegations and the procedures to be adopted. It is
advisable that the Ordinary follow up the case with the CDF. The Bishop or
Religious Superior is best placed to discern the potential impact of the outcome of
the case on his community. The CDF takes the advice of the Bishop seriously and
is always available to discuss individual cases with the competent ecclesiastical
Canonical Penal Processes
In most cases referred to the CDF a canonical penal process is authorised by the
Holy See. The majority of canonical penal processes are of the extra-judicial or
administrative type (CIC 1720). Judicial penal processes are authorized in a lesser
number of cases. In both types of process the Ordinary has the duty to nominate
Delegates and Assessors or Judges and Promoters of Justice that are prudent,
academically qualified and renowned for their sense of fairness. In our system, as it
obtains at the present, the role of the victim of sexual abuse in canonical proceedings
is limited. The pastoral solicitude of the Ordinary will help make up for this lacuna.
The person responsible for Safeguarding in the Diocese or the Religious Order
should be able to share information on the progress of the proceedings with the
victim or the victims in the case. In the judicial penal process the victim has the right
to institute a case for damages before the ecclesiastical judge of First Instance. In
the case of an administrative penal process this initiative should be taken by the
Ordinary on behalf of the victim, requesting the Delegate to award damages in
favour of the victim as a subordinate consequence of an eventual decision of guilt.
The essence of a just process requires that the accused is presented with all
arguments and evidence against him; that the accused is given the full benefit of the
right of presenting his defence; that judgement is given based on the facts of the case
and the law applicable to the case; that a reasoned judgement or decision is
communicated in writing to the accused and that the accused enjoy a remedy against
a judgement or decision that aggrieves him. Once the Ordinary, following the
instructions of the CDF, nominates a Delegate and his Assessors in an administrative
process, or nominates the members of the tribunal in a judicial penal process, he
should let the persons nominated do their work and should refrain from interfering
in the process. It remains his duty, however, to ensure that the process is done in a
timely manner and according to canon law. A canonical penal process, whether
judicial or administrative, ends with one of three possible outcomes: a decisio
condemnatoria (where the reus is found guilty of a canonical delict); a decisio
dimissoria (where the accusations have not been proven); or a decisio absolutoria
(where the accused is declared innocent). A decisio dimissoria
may create a dilemma. The Bishop or Religious Superior may still be uncomfortable
with reassigning the accused to ministry in a case where the allegations are credible
but the case has not been proven. Expert advice is essential in these cases and the
Ordinary should use his authority to guarantee the common good and ensure the
effective safeguarding of children and young people.
The Interface with Civil Jurisdiction
An essential aspect of the exercise of stewardship in these cases is the proper
interface with civil jurisdiction. We are talking about misconduct that is also a crime
in all civil jurisdictions. The competence of the state authorities should be respected.
Reporting laws should be followed carefully and a spirit of collaboration will benefit
both the Church and society in general. The Civil courts have jurisdiction to punish
crime and another jurisdiction to award damages under laws concerning civil
matters. Civil thresholds or criteria of proof may be different from those exercised
in canonical proceedings. The difference of outcomes for the same case is not a rare
occurrence. In a number of canonical proceedings the acts presented or produced
during civil proceedings are presented as an element of proof. This happens quite
frequently in cases of the acquisition, possession, or divulging of pornography
featuring minors where the State authorities possess better means of detection,
surveillance and access to evidence. The difference in laws concerning the statute
of limitations or prescription is another motive for a diversity of outcome in the same
case decided under different jurisdictions. The power of the CDF to derogate from
the twenty-year prescription is still invoked in a number of historical cases, but
admittedly this should not be the norm but rather the exception. The ratio legis here
is that the establishment of the truth and the guarantee of justice require the
possibility of the exercise of judicial jurisdiction in favour of the common good even
in cases where the crime was committed a long time ago.
Implementing Canonical Decisions
The Bishop and the Religious Superior have the duty to supervise the
implementation and execution of the legitimate outcomes of penal proceedings.
Allowance has to be made for the right of the accused to resort to the remedies
allowed by law against a decision that aggrieves him. Once the appeal stage is
exhausted, it is the duty of the Ordinary to inform the Community of the definitive
outcome of the process. Decisions that declare the guilt of the accused and the
punishment imposed should be implemented without delay. Decisions that declare
the innocence of the accused should also be given due publicity. We all know that
it is very difficult to restore the good name of a priest who may have been unjustly
accused. The question of aftercare in these cases also involves the care of victims
who have been betrayed in the most fundamental and spiritual aspects of their
personality and their being. Their families are also deeply affected and the whole
community should share the burden of their grief and move together with them
towards healing.
The words of Benedict XVI to the Bishops of Ireland on 28 October 2006 sound the
more prophetic today: “In the exercise of your pastoral ministry, you have had to
respond in recent years to many heart-rending cases of sexual abuse of minors. These
are all the more tragic when the abuser is a cleric. The wounds caused by such acts
run deep, and it is an urgent task to rebuild confidence and trust where these have
been damaged. In your continuing efforts to deal effectively with this problem, it is
important to establish the truth of what happened in the past, to take whatever steps
are necessary to prevent it from occurring again, to ensure that the principles of
justice are fully respected and, above all, to bring healing to the victims and to all
those affected by these egregious crimes. In this way, the Church in Ireland will
grow stronger and be ever more capable of giving witness to the redemptive power
of the Cross of Christ. I pray that by the grace of the Holy Spirit, this time of
purification will enable all God’s people in Ireland to “maintain and perfect in their
lives that holiness which they have received from God” (Lumen Gentium, 40).
The fine work and selfless dedication of the great majority of priests and religious in
Ireland should not be obscured by the transgressions of some of their brethren. I am
certain that the people understand this, and continue to regard their clergy with affection
and esteem. Encourage your priests always to seek spiritual renewal and to discover
afresh the joy of ministering to their flocks within the great family of the Church.”
The Prevention of Sexual Abuse
Our stewardship should also embrace the urgent and long-term issue of the
prevention of sexual misconduct in general and of sexual abuse of minors in
particular. Notwithstanding the lack of candidates to the priesthood in certain parts
of the world, but also to the background of a flourishing of vocations in others, the
question of screening of future candidates remains of the essence. The more recent
documents of the Congregation for the Clergy on programmes of human formation
should be studied and implemented thoroughly. To quote from the more recent Ratio
Fundamentalis (8 December 2016):
“The greatest attention must be given to the theme of the protection of minors and
vulnerable adults, being vigilant that those who seek admission to a Seminary or to
a House of Formation, or who are already petitioning to receive Holy Orders, have
not been involved in any way with any crime or problematic behaviour in this area.
Formators must ensure that those who have had painful experiences in this area
receive special and suitable accompaniment.
Specific lessons, seminars or courses on the protection of minors are to be included
in the programmes of initial and ongoing formation. Adequate information must be
provided in an appropriate fashion, which also gives attention to areas dealing with
possible exploitation and violence, such as, for example, the trafficking of minors,
child labour, and the sexual abuse of minors or vulnerable adults” (n. 202).
A just and balanced understanding of the demands of priestly celibacy and chastity
should be underpinned by a profound and healthy formation in human freedom and
sound moral doctrine. Candidates for the priesthood and the religious life should
nurture and grow in that spiritual fatherhood that should remain the basic motivation
for the generous giving of oneself to the faith community in the example of Jesus
the Good Shepherd.
The Bishop and the Religious Superior should exercise their spiritual fatherhood visà-vis the priests entrusted to their care. This fatherhood is fulfilled through
accompaniment with the help of prudent and holy priests. Prevention is better served
when Protocols are clear and Codes of Conduct well known. Response to
misconduct should be just and even-handed. Outcomes should be clear from the
outset. Above all, the Ordinary is responsible in guaranteeing and promoting the
personal, physical, mental and spiritual well-being of his priests. The documents of
the magisterium on this issue stress the need for permanent formation and for events
and structures of fraternity in the presbyterium.
A good steward will empower his community through information and formation.
There are already instances of best practice in a number of countries where whole
parish communities have been given specific training in prevention. This valid and
positive experience needs to grow in accessibility and extension around the world.
Another service to the community is the ready availability of user-friendly access to
reporting mechanisms so that a culture of disclosure is not only promoted by words
but also encouraged by deed. Protocols for safeguarding should be readily accessible
in a clear and direct language. The faith community under our care should know that
we mean business. They should come to know us as friends of their safety and that
of their children and youth. We will engage them with candour and humility. We will
protect them at all cost. We will lay down our lives for the flocks entrusted to us.
Another aspect of the stewardship of prevention is the selection and presentation of
candidates for the mission of Bishop. Many demand that the process be more open
to the input of lay people in the community. We Bishops and Religious Superiors
have the sacred duty to help the Holy Father arrive at a proper discernment
concerning possible candidates for leadership as Bishops. It is a grave sin against
the integrity of the episcopal ministry to hide or underestimate facts that may
indicate deficits in the lifestyle or spiritual fatherhood of priests subject to a
pontifical investigation into their suitability for the office of Bishop.
At this point I would like to offer another quote from Pope Benedict XVI’s Letter to
the People in God in Ireland, 19 March 2010, this time expressly addressed to the
Bishops: “It cannot be denied that some of you and your predecessors failed, at times
grievously, to apply the long-established norms of canon law to the crime of child
abuse. Serious mistakes were made in responding to allegations. I recognize how
difficult it was to grasp the extent and complexity of the problem, to obtain reliable
information and to make the right decisions in the light of conflicting expert advice.
Nevertheless, it must be admitted that grave errors of judgement were made and
failures of leadership occurred. All this has seriously undermined your credibility
and effectiveness. I appreciate the efforts you have made to remedy past mistakes
and to guarantee that they do not happen again. Besides fully implementing the
norms of canon law in addressing cases of child abuse, continue to cooperate with
the civil authorities in their area of competence. Clearly, religious superiors should
do likewise. They too have taken part in recent discussions here in Rome with a view
to establishing a clear and consistent approach to these matters. It is imperative that
the child safety norms of the Church in Ireland be continually revised and updated
and that they be applied fully and impartially in conformity with canon law.
Only decisive action carried out with complete honesty and transparency will restore
the respect and good will of the Irish people towards the Church to which we have
consecrated our lives. This must arise, first and foremost, from your own selfexamination, inner purification and spiritual renewal. The Irish people rightly expect
you to be men of God, to be holy, to live simply, to pursue personal conversion daily.
For them, in the words of Saint Augustine, you are a bishop; yet with them you are
called to be a follower of Christ (cf. Sermon 340, 1). I therefore exhort you to renew
your sense of accountability before God, to grow in solidarity with your people and
to deepen your pastoral concern for all the members of your flock. In particular, I
ask you to be attentive to the spiritual and moral lives of each one of your priests.
Set them an example by your own lives, be close to them, listen to their concerns,
offer them encouragement at this difficult time and stir up the flame of their love for
Christ and their commitment to the service of their brothers and sisters.
The lay faithful, too, should be encouraged to play their proper part in the life of the
Church. See that they are formed in such a way that they can offer an articulate and
convincing account of the Gospel in the midst of modern society (cf. 1 Pet 3:15) and
cooperate more fully in the Church’s life and mission. This in turn will help you once
again become credible leaders and witnesses to the redeeming truth of Christ.” (n.11)
As Pope Francis wrote in his Letter to the People of God (20 August 2018): “It is
essential that we, as a Church, be able to acknowledge and condemn, with sorrow
and shame, the atrocities perpetrated by consecrated persons, clerics, and all those
entrusted with the mission of watching over and caring for those most vulnerable.
Let us beg forgiveness for our own sins and the sins of others. An awareness of sin
helps us to acknowledge the errors, the crimes and the wounds caused in the past
and allows us, in the present, to be more open and committed along a journey of
renewed conversion.”
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