May 9, 2019



Pope Francis has issued an Apostolic letter in answer to the need of the Church to respond decisively to the out of control abuse of minors scandals. Whether the abuse is as rampant as ever or it is just that more of what happened is now surfacing throughout the world, society - not only the Catholic community - is pushing back with protests, exposes, court cases and government inquiries.

Pope Francis called the leaders of particular churches from around the world - including the heads of Eastern Catholic Churches and the presidents of national episcopal conferences - to Rome in February of this years to discuss the abuse tragedy and form a concrete strategy for dealing with it immediately. The Holy Father has now issued a "motu proprio" (an executive decree of sorts) entitled "You are the light of the World" that acknowledges the horror of the scandal and then issues a series of provisions as to how local churches are to deal with both the victims and the perpetrators.

The Motu Proprio has a section specific to Eastern Catholic Churches. The Head of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, His Beatitude Sviatoslav participated in the February Vatican meeting with the heads of other Eastern Catholic Churches. Their input is certainly reflected in the "Eastern" section and, surely, throughout the document.

In the opening section, Pope Francis reminds the clergy and the whole Church that Christ appointed all of us, above all, to reflect Him at all times as "the light of the world" and that every believer is to be "a shining example of virtue, integrity and holiness". The Pope then dives into the darkness of the scandal, stating that, "the crimes of sexual abuse offend Our Lord, cause physical, psychological and spiritual damage to the victims and harm the community of the faithful." He acknowledges, however, that if to ensure that these crimes, "in all their forms, never happen again" there must be "a continuous and profound conversion of hearts [...] attested by concrete and effective actions that involve everyone in the Church, so that personal sanctity and moral commitment can contribute to promoting the full credibility of the Gospel message and the effectiveness of the Church's mission".

The document covers clear steps and procedures that must be taken when an accusation is made or a crime is otherwise revealed. The first step is to cease and prevent any further harm, but then act swiftly in investigating the crime and caring for the victims. The detailed document can be read [HERE].

The section labelled for "Eastern Churches" mainly tries to address the autonomy that the Eastern Churches enjoy in their particular system of governance. Reports, in some cases, go to the Head of the particular Eastern Church rather than (or before) going to the Vatican. For example, Article 9 of the motu proprio states in its first paragraph that, "Reports concerning a Bishop of [an Eastern Catholic Church] shall be forwarded to the respective [Head of that] Church." However, that same section insists that the Holy See [i.e. the Vatican] be informed immediately if such a case has been reported.

As for other clergy (priests, deacons, etc.) or anyone else working in or for the Church on a local level, the report starts at the local Bishop who will have a team in place to assist him with all aspects of the matter.

Read Pope Francis' document Vos estis lux mundi [HERE].

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