Official from Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith Talks about Abuse
In a candid interview, Msgr. Charles Scicluna talks about the handling of abuse cases by the Vatican.
Msgr. Charles J. Scicluna is the "promoter of justice" of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. He is effectively the prosecutor of the tribunal of the former Holy Office, whose job it is to investigate what are known as "delicta graviora"; i.e., the crimes which the Catholic Church considers as being the most serious of all: crimes against the Eucharist and against the sanctity of the Sacrament of Penance, and crimes against the sixth Commandment ("thou shall not commit impure acts") committed by a cleric against a person under the age of eighteen.
These crimes, in a "Motu Proprio" of 2001, "Sacramentum sanctitatis tutela", come under the competency of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. In effect, it is the "promoter of justice" who deals with, among other things, the terrible question of priests accused of paedophilia, which are periodically highlighted in the mass media. Msgr. Scicluna, an affable and polite Maltese, has the reputation of scrupulously carrying out the tasks entrusted to him without deferring to anyone.
Question: Monsignor, you have the reputation of being "tough", yet the Catholic Church is systematically accused of being accommodating towards "paedophile priests".
Answer: It may be that in the past - perhaps also out of a misdirected desire to protect the good name of the institution - some bishops were, in practice, too indulgent towards this sad phenomenon. And I say in practice because, in principle, the condemnation of this kind of crime has always been firm and unequivocal. Suffice it to recall, to limit ourselves just to last century, the famous Instruction "Crimen sollicitationis" of 1922.
Q: Wasn't that from 1962?
A: No, the first edition dates back to the pontificate of Pius XI. Then, with Blessed John XXIII, the Holy Office issued a new edition for the Council Fathers, but only two thousand copies were printed, which were not enough, and so distribution was postponed sine die. In any case, these were procedural norms to be followed in cases of solicitation during confession, and of other more serious sexually-motivated crimes such as the sexual abuse of minors.
Q: Norms which, however, recommended secrecy...
A: A poor English translation of that text has led people to think that the Holy See imposed secrecy in order to hide the facts. But this was not so. Secrecy during the investigative phase served to protect the good name of all the people involved; first and foremost, the victims themselves, then the accused priests who have the right - as everyone does - to the presumption of innocence until proven guilty. The Church does not like showcase justice. Norms on sexual abuse have never been understood as a ban on denouncing the crimes to the civil authorities.
Q: Nonetheless, that document is periodically cited to accuse the current Pontiff of having been - when he was prefect of the former Holy Office - objectively responsible for a Holy See policy of covering up the facts...
A: That accusation is false and calumnious. On this subject I would like to highlight a number of facts. Between 1975 and 1985 I do not believe that any cases of paedophilia committed by priests were brought to the attention of our Congregation. Moreover, following the promulgation of the 1983 Code of Canon Law, there was a period of uncertainty as to which of the "delicta graviora" were reserved to the competency of this dicastery. Only with the 2001 "Motu Proprio" did the crime of paedophilia again become our exclusive remit. From that moment Cardinal Ratzinger displayed great wisdom and firmness in handling those cases, also demonstrating great courage in facing some of the most difficult and thorny cases, "sine acceptione personarum". Therefore, to accuse the current Pontiff of a cover-up is, I repeat, false and calumnious.
Q: What happens when a priest is accused of a "delictum gravius"?
A: If the accusation is well-founded the bishop has the obligation to investigate both the soundness and the subject of the accusation. If the outcome of this initial investigation is consistent, he no longer has any power to act in the matter and must refer the case to our Congregation where it is dealt with by the disciplinary office.
Q: How is that office composed?
A: Apart from myself who, being one of the superiors of the dicastery, also concern myself with other matters, there are the bureau chief Fr. Pedro Miguel Funes Diaz, seven priests and a lay lawyer who follow these cases. Other officials of the ...
Rate This Article
Leave a Comment
More Europe News
- Pentecostal Pope Calls Ecclesial Movements and the Whole Church to Newness, Unity and Mission
- Historic Meeting between Pope Francis and Coptic Patriarch, Tawadros II, Fosters Christian Unity
- Pope Francis Shakes up the Ambassadors Meeting and Addresses Economic Issues
- AU CONTRAIRE! Economic crisis has been 'pulling European public opinion apart'
- Pope Calls Whole Church to Encounter Jesus Christ Personally Through the Holy Spirit
- France ponder one percent 'Internet tax' to fund domestic computer production
- Pope Francis Canonizes 802 Saints: 800 Martyrs of Otranto and Two Latin American Foundresses
- Growth in Number of Catholics Worldwide, Along with Priests and Deacons
- Scientists confirm that Roman Empire was destroyed by plague
- Fr. Paul Schenck: Finding Living Faith on Catechetical Sunday
- The Movie Yellow: Incest as 'Normal' and Cassavates's Slides Into the World of Woes
- The Chicago School Teachers Strike Reveals the Need For School Choice
- The Sexual Barbarians and the Dissolution of Culture
- The Happy Priest Challenges Us to Ask: Who is Jesus to Me?
- Michael Coren on Canadian Public Schools: Teachers, leave those kids alone
- We Cannot Ignore Our Consciences: Cardinal Dolan On Religious Liberty
- In the Face of Danger, Successor of Peter Travels to Lebanon as a Messenger of Peace
- Reflections on the Dignity and Vocation of Women: Who or What?