The Catholic bishops of the United States just concluded their annual summer meeting. One of the key topics was Pope Francis’ Apostolic Motu Proprio, modifying norms in response to sexual abuse.
In her June 12 opinion, “Clergy sexual abuse reporting rule does not go far enough to protect our children,” State Senator Lauren Book noted that the Holy Father’s recent directive does not include a requirement to report allegations of abuse to law enforcement.
Existing church law in the United States already requires notifying public authorities; it has been a policy since 2002, when the bishops adopted the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.
Pope Francis’ modification applies to the church worldwide and, in some countries, unfortunately, calling the police is not a safe thing to do.
The internal church law outlined by Pope Francis is separate from any investigation by civil authorities. In no way does a church investigation interfere with or replace a civil investigation.
The Motu Proprio strengthens protections already in place and supports current policies to create a safe environment for children and vulnerable adults, discipline offenders, and assist with healing for victims and survivors.
While the bishops continue to be open to improving practices as they did in response to Pope Francis’ Moto Proprio, what the church is doing right can help others in eliminating the scourge of sexual abuse that has harmed so many children and their families.
We welcome the opportunity to dialogue with Senator Book on the work of the church to address abuse and to develop a shared understanding of the work that remains.
Michael B. Sheedy,
Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops,