Vatican issues guide for investigating priests accused of abuse

Vatican Vademecum Clergy Abuse

Title: Vatican issues guide for investigating priests accused of abuse
Author: Christopher Lamb
Publisher: The Tablet
Date: 16JUL2020

The Vatican has issued a detailed guide for how Church leaders should handle allegations of abuse by clergy against children.

The handbook, a Vademecum, sets out how bishops and religious superiors should investigate abuse, including the obligation to report allegations to civic authorities.

Although the instruction manual effectively summarises existing laws, it is the first time the Vatican has published how the internal Church process for investigating and prosecuting abuse cases works. This tool was proposed by the landmark abuse summit which took place in the Vatican on 21-24 February 2019, in the latest attempt to forge a unified Church response to the abuse crisis.

“The course of justice cannot alone exhaust the church’s response, but it is necessary in order to come to the truth of the facts,” Cardinal Luis Ladaria, the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the department which produced the Vademecum, explained.

The handbook says that allegations of abuse do not have to be a formal complaint but can come through anonymous sources, a third party or social media. Bishops and superiors are urged not to simply dismiss allegations even if they appear doubtful.

“At times, a notitia de delicto (information about an offence) can derive from an anonymous source, namely, from unidentified or unidentifiable persons,” the manual explains.

“The anonymity of the source should not automatically lead to considering the report as false.  Nonetheless, for easily understandable reasons, great caution should be exercised in considering this type of notitia, and anonymous reports certainly should not be encouraged.”

Church leaders, the guidebook stresses, are obliged to refer allegations to the relevant state authorities, and onto Rome where they will be investigated by the doctrine congregation.

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