February 02, 2005

Reviewing the abuse norms: U.S.-Vatican talks expected to be positive

The Tidings

By John Thavis

Two years after adopting special norms for dealing with priestly sex abusers, U.S. bishops and Vatican officials are sitting down in early February to review how the new policies have worked and to consider possible revisions.

Vatican officials described the meeting as a simple consultation. They said the talks were expected to be positive, reflecting progress made since the first major U.S.-Vatican meetings on sex abuse in 2002.

"The climate has matured. The norms have been in place for two years, and a lot of cases have been handled. On all sides, there is recognition that much has been accomplished," said one Vatican official.

The "Essential Norms" laid out a strict policy on priestly sex abuse, providing for removal from ministry or laicization of priests who have sexually abused minors. The Vatican approved the norms on an experimental basis for a two-year period beginning in March 2003; new Vatican approval, called a "recognitio," would presumably have to be given again this year, whether or not revisions are made.

Some Vatican sources said they do not expect major changes to the norms. They pointed to improved coordination on sex abuse cases over the last two years between U.S. bishops and the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which was given special competence over such offenses.

Other Vatican officials, however, said they anticipated a re-airing of earlier objections to some elements of the norms and the U.S. bishops' "Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People" --- including the basic issue of "zero tolerance" for offending priests and their removal from ministry after a single act of sexual abuse.

Posted by kshaw at February 2, 2005 06:02 PM