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Taking Charge or Covering Up?

by Christopher A. Ferrara

A recent article in America magazine (December 17, 2001) discusses new Vatican norms for handling sexual abuse of minors by priests. Under the new norms, "the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) has taken juridical control over cases of sexual abuse of minors by priests, classifying it as one of several ‘graver offenses’ against church law. The move represents a Vatican effort to centralize procedure and oversight of such sexual abuse cases, said canon law experts in Rome."

This sounds promising enough, until one examines the fine print. Under the new norms there will be a ten-year statute of limitations on claims in Church tribunals involving sexual abuse by priests. Under the old norms there was no statute of limitations. Thus, the new norm will prevent consideration of many claims that would have had to be heard under the old norms.

The new norms also give exclusive jurisdiction over such claims to the CDF. "The new norms require local bishops to report probable cases of clerical sexual abuse against minors to the Vatican's doctrinal congregation, headed by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. The congregation then either could allow a local diocesan tribunal to handle the case under the congregation's procedural rules or intervene and take up the case immediately in its own tribunal."

So, all control over sex abuse by priests is now in the hands of the same Vatican Congregation which refused to put a stop to filthy sex-education courses in North American "Catholic schools".

America notes that the CDF’s Secretary, Archbishop Bertone, "said the new norms do not preclude bishops from temporarily suspending accused priests from their ministry while an investigation proceeds - as long as this was seen as a ‘temporary and cautionary punishment’ and not as a permanent one." Such solicitude for the rights of suspected child-molesters - not to mention the years and even decades of due process the Vatican affords to flagrant heretics who thumb their noses at infallible teachings of the Magisterium.

As for Father Nicholas Gruner, who has kept his vows and kept the faith, there will be no "temporary and cautionary" penalty. No, the Vatican Press Office declares him "suspended" - without grounds - indefinitely. One measure of the depth of the current ecclesial crisis is that Father Gruner would have received greater leniency if he had been accused of child-molestation. The "springtime of Vatican II" becomes an ever-deepening winter.