CDF publishes a handbook on investigating minister abuse of ministers

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On Thursday, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) published a handbook designed to help dioceses and orders to follow Church guidelines on how clergymen allege sexual abuse of minors.

The 17-page document does not change the current canon law, but offers those responsible through clergy, professors or hierarchies "step-by-step instructions" to support canonical investigations of such abuse cases.

The introduction states that the aim of the Handbook or Vademecum is to help Church leaders "understand and implement the requirements of justice in relation to a delictum gravius ​​that is profound and painful for the entire Church Represents wound that cries out for healing ".

As mentioned in the handbook, “any external offense against the sixth decal of the Decalogue committed by a minister with a minor” is ultimately treated by the CDF, as such crimes are classified as a serious delictum (delictum gravius). Sexual abuse of vulnerable adults is treated in the same way because "a person who usually has the imperfect use of reason is considered equivalent to a minor".

The handbook mainly deals with how to conduct preliminary investigations into allegations, which information must then be forwarded to the CDF and how the CDF is likely to react to information that it receives in the course of criminal proceedings.

In the course of a preliminary investigation, an ordinary or hierarch must obtain relevant data and determine the plausibility if he receives information about possible abuse, whether directly from a suspected victim or in some other way.

The handbook states that such preliminary examinations must be carried out before the process “independently of the relevant investigations by the civil authorities”. It also says that investigators are “obliged to respect the secret of the office” to ensure fair trial and “defend the good name of those involved”.

However, the CDF adds that civil authorities can continue to be informed of the process and that "the obligation to remain silent about the allegations cannot be imposed on those who report the matter, a person who claims to have been injured, and witnesses ".

Often referring to the continuing need to consult canon law, legal experts, and the CDF when investigating minister abuse of ministers, the document concludes by stating that it "does not claim the training of canon law practitioners, particularly with regard to criminal law, replacing and procedural issues. Only a profound knowledge of the law and its aims can serve the truth and justice, which are to be sought especially in questions of the graviora delicta due to the deep wounds they inflict on the ecclesial community. "

The Vademecum is one of the last documents published from the documents announced at the Vatican Abuse Summit in 2019. In addition to the code of canon law, the handbook advises those investigating allegations to refer to one of the first of these post-summit documents, Pope Francis Vos estis lux mundi, to ensure that bishops and religious superiors are held accountable for handling abuse cases .

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