Skip to content
Deacon Keith Fournier Hi reader, it seems you use Catholic Online a lot; that's great! It's a little awkward to ask, but we need your help. If you have already donated, we sincerely thank you. We're not salespeople, but we depend on donations averaging $14.76 and fewer than 1% of readers give. If you donate just $5.00, the price of your coffee, Catholic Online School could keep thriving. Thank you. Help Now >

Analysis: 'Vos estis' and 'vulnerability'

Free World Class Education
FREE Catholic Classes

By (CNA/EWTN)
5/14/2019 (5 days ago)
Catholic Online (https://www.catholic.org)

Pope Francis' recently promulgated policy on sexual abuse allegations made against bishops, Vos estis lux mundi, offers a new and much expanded interpretation of what constitutes a canonical sexual crime by a cleric.

Highlights

By (CNA/EWTN)
Catholic Online (https://www.catholic.org)
5/14/2019 (5 days ago)

Published in U.S.

Keywords: Analysis, Vos estis, vulnerability


Washington D.C., (CNA) - That interpretation has raised real questions about how the law is to be applied, at the Vatican and in diocesan chanceries.

The new policy recognizes as explicitly criminal the abuse of authority in coercive sexual relationships, a move called for often in the wake of the Theodore McCarrick scandal. It also offers a new definition for "vulnerable" adults, a legal category of persons who could be subject to criminally coercive abuse.

The universal law of the Church previously defined a "vulnerable adult" as one who "habitually lacks the use of reason."

The new definition classifies a "vulnerable adult" as "any person in a state of infirmity, physical or mental deficiency, or deprivation of personal liberty which, in fact, even occasionally, limits their ability to understand or to want or otherwise resist the offense."

That definition could seem to cover a very broad swath of situations, which would be quite distinct from each other. Some Vatican and diocesan officials have told CNA they are concerned that the potentially broad applicability of the new definition could cause unjust expectations, and uncertainty about how to proceed in individual cases.

Specifically, some worry that Vos estis could foster a sense that nearly any sexual act committed by a priest is expected be treated on a par with the sexual abuse of minors, and lead to his removal permanent removal from ministry.

In a Church committed to zero-tolerance for sexual abuse, the new definition for "vulnerable adult" could make clergy discipline a decidedly more complicated undertaking.

It seems clear, for example, that a priest who has had a sexual relationship with a traumatized victim of abuse who comes to him for spiritual direction has committed a most grave offense, and should face the fullest measure of justice - civil and canonical.

But can the same be said for a newly ordained priest who, while still coming into maturity, kisses a parishioner with whom he is friends in a moment of indiscretion, after they both have a few drinks, and then immediately puts a stop to things?

Both are serious offenses that impact the good of souls and the public good. In both situations, the other party was impaired in some way, and could seem to meet the definition of vulnerability. Both should be addressed directly by ecclesiastical authorities. But ought those situations be treated the same?

Applying the Church's new policy, some canonists have said, requires that Church officials clarify that different kinds of offenses will, and should, merit different kinds of penalties. 
At the close of the global summit on sexual abuse in February, the organizing committee announced that the follow-up from the meeting would include a motu proprio, now published. They also said that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith would produce a vademecum, a practical and procedural handbook, outlining for bishops their responsibilities.
 Many in Rome and in diocesan chanceries have told CNA they hope that such a manual will address these concerns, spelling out or at least acknowledging an escalating gradation of crimes and correspondent penalties.

It is not clear when the CDF might publish such a document, or even if it will address these questions. But those concerns might be addressed by other Vatican or diocesan offices.

It is possible that bishops might soon request guidance from the Congregation for Clergy, the curial department which receives the vast majority of cases involving priestly misconduct and requests for laicization. Given that the Congregation for Clergy has long handled clerical sexual issues not defined as sufficiently grave to be sent to the CDF, its experience could prove valuable to bishops trying to understand new canonical definitions and their implications.  

At the same time, bishops themselves might begin to act to bring the provisions of Vos estis into force in their own dioceses.

Bishops like Baltimore's Archbishop William Lori have already begun taking independent initiatives, like setting up third party reporting mechanisms, to address the current crisis. Bishops might soon decide to also establish localized policies reflecting the norms of Vos estis.

Bishops are canonically free to establish their own guidelines on how they will be applying the new norms of Vos estis, offering what many of the faithful say they want most to see: clear, concrete, steps towards reform in their own home dioceses.

Diocesan norms could also provide the reassurances that many priests are hoping for regarding their rights in the face of accusations, credible or otherwise, and the assurance that "zero-tolerance" will not be a byword for summary justice.

Before the February summit, Pope Francis repeatedly stated his intention not to provide a universal and comprehensive canonical solution to the sexual abuse crisis. Rather, the pope's stated aim was to provide a global framework which supported bishops in their own responsibilities.

Despite Francis's insistence that he is providing a foundation for local dioceses to build upon, many bishops are still tempted to look to Rome or the national bishops' conference to tell them what to do next.

In the same way that no investigative model or review board can insulate the Church from individual episcopal negligence, no papal decree of conference policy can substitute for conversion and leadership by individual bishops. Rome has spoken, and bishops will now face the challenge of carrying out the pope's direction.

Your Prayer Requests 'LIVE'

---


'Help Give every Student and Teacher FREE resources for a world-class Moral Catholic Education'


Copyright 2019 - Distributed by THE CALIFORNIA NETWORK

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for January 2019
Young People and the Example of Mary.
That young people, especially in Latin America, follow the example of Mary and respond to the call of the Lord to communicate the joy of the Gospel to the world.


Comments


More U.S.

'Stand firm for life against the evil opposing it' Kentucky governor says Watch

Image of

Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin (R) is urging his fellow governors to "be bold" on the issue of life. Frankfort, Ky., (CNA) - The first-term ... continue reading


Pro-life doctors: Despite Ohio bill, there is no procedure to save ectopic pregnancies Watch

Image of

An Ohio bill seeking to limit insurance coverage of non-lifesaving abortions erroneously states that a procedure exists in which a doctor ... continue reading



Analysis: Which state pro-life laws could arrive at the Supreme Court Watch

Image of

Earlier this week, the state of Alabama passed legislation to make abortion a felony. The measure is the nation's strongest prohibition on ... continue reading


'Appeal-proof' abortion ban advances in Missouri Watch

Image of

The Missouri Senate has passed a bill that would ban most abortions after eight weeks of pregnancy. Legislators responsible for the bill ... continue reading


Lowest-ever fertility rates have complicated causes, no easy solutions, experts say Watch

Image of

Fertility rates in the United States have fallen to an all-time low, according to provisional figures released by the Centers for Disease ... continue reading


Never Miss any Updates!

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers.

Deacon Keith Fournier Hi readers, it seems you use Catholic Online a lot; that's great! It's a little awkward to ask, but we need your help. If you have already donated, we sincerely thank you. We're not salespeople, but we depend on donations averaging $14.76 and fewer than 1% of readers give. If you donate just $5.00, the price of your coffee, Catholic Online School could keep thriving. Thank you. Help Now >

Information
Learn about Catholic world

Catholic Online
Inform - Inspire - Ignite

Catholic Online Saints
Your saints explained

Catholic Online Prayers
Prayers for every need

Catholic Online Bible
Complete bible online

Catholic Online News
Your news Catholic eye

Daily Reading
Today's bible reading

Lent / Easter
Death & resurrection of Jesus

Advent / Christmas
Birth of Jesus

Rest of Catholic Online
All Catholic world we offer

Services
Products and services we offer

Catholic Online Shopping
Catholic medals, gifts & books

Advertise on Catholic Online
Your ads on catholic.org

Catholic Online Email
Email with Catholic feel

Education
Learn the Catholic way

Catholic Online School
Free Catholic education for all

Student Classes
K-12 & Adult Education Classes

Support Free Education
Tax deductible support Free education

Socials
Connect with us online

Catholic Online on Facebook
Catholic social network

Catholic Online on Twitter
Catholic Tweets

Catholic Online on YouTube
Enjoy our videos

Catholic Online on Instagram
Shared Catholic moments

Catholic Online on Pinterest
Catholic ideas style inspiration

Catholic Online Logo

Copyright 2019 Catholic Online. All materials contained on this site, whether written, audible or visual are the exclusive property of Catholic Online and are protected under U.S. and International copyright laws, © Copyright 2019 Catholic Online. Any unauthorized use, without prior written consent of Catholic Online is strictly forbidden and prohibited.

Catholic Online is a Project of Your Catholic Voice Foundation, a Not-for-Profit Corporation. Your Catholic Voice Foundation has been granted a recognition of tax exemption under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Federal Tax Identification Number: 81-0596847. Your gift is tax-deductible as allowed by law.