Pope Francis abolishes pontifical

Legal lessons: Past abuse cases help train canon lawyers

Accountability Transparency Pontifical Secret

Title: Legal lessons: Past abuse cases help train canon lawyers
Author: Carol Glatz
Publisher: The Catholic Spirit
Date: 07APR2021

When Pope Francis abolished the “pontifical secret” covering the church’s judicial handling of cases of the sexual abuse of minors, it was hailed as a major step forward in promoting greater transparency and accountability.

At first glance, it means victims and witnesses are free to discuss a case and, even though Vatican officials are still obliged to maintain confidentiality, it “shall not prevent the fulfillment of the obligations laid down in all places by civil laws,” the amended law said.

But an additional consequence of this landmark change, enacted in mid-December 2019, will be its potential to provide much-needed practical training and multidisciplinary studies for those involved in the handling of abuse cases.

The faculty of canon law at Rome’s Pontifical Gregorian University recently announced it is offering a new diploma in penal jurisprudence — an “innovative” yearlong course designed to give canon law graduates practical skills and guidance in handling evidence, appropriately questioning the different parties and gleaning insight from actual past abuse cases, according to a university news release in mid-March.

“There is a need to learn canon law not only in the theoretical dimension, but also in its applications,” Jesuit Father Damián Astigueta, a canon law professor at the university and coordinator of the diploma, said in the news release.

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