Bishops Welcome Update of Vatican Norms on Sexual Abuse

July 15, 2010 By Public Affairs Office

WASHINGTON-Bishop Blase Cupich, bishop of Rapid City, South Dakota, and bishop-designate of Spokane, Washington, and Chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Protection of Children and Young People, welcomed the Vatican’s update of its 2001 norms dealing with clergy sexual abuse of minors in a July 15 statement. The new norms include the abuse of a mentally disabled adult and the downloading of child pornography in the same category as abusing a minor and also extend the Vatican’s statute of limitations for sexual abuse to 20 years after the victim turned 18.

The full text of Bishop Cupich’s statement follows:

The Vatican action is a welcome step forward as we deal with the terrible crime and sin of sexual abuse by a cleric. What we read today from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is heartening. The bishops in this country felt the support of the Holy See in 2002 with the establishment of the Essential Norms and we are strengthened even more as the measures outlined in this document build on and go beyond what has been particular law for the Church in the United States since then.

The seriousness with which the church views sexual abuse of a minor by a cleric cannot be overstated. By putting child sexual abuse by clergy in the same context as the safeguarding of the sacraments, the Church is making it clear that such misconduct violates the core values of our faith and worship.

Today the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith notes that the abuse of the mentally impaired, no matter what the person’s age, is horrific. Abuse of someone who cannot defend himself or herself is craven, cowardly behavior.

Welcome, too, is the recognition that the crime of child pornography damages not just those who pursue it, but any child degraded in the making of it. Child pornography is a degradation of any child of God. A priest’s involvement with it is particularly offensive.

The document makes law of measures that have already been in use by the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith to facilitate handling of cases brought to the Vatican. This is an important step in the continuing effort to achieve justice for innocent people whose trust in a cleric was violated.

The adoption of these modifications to the original norms of the Apostolic Letter, The Safeguarding of the Sanctity of the Sacraments (Sacramentorum sanctitatis tutela) issued in April 2001, furthers our strong resolve to do all that is possible to see that children are protected and safe, especially in the Church. We apologize to those who have been hurt in the past. We are doing everything possible to prevent such harm in the future.

Background: The U.S. bishops respond to clergy sexual abuse of minors by following the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, approved in 2002. For more information on the charter, go to:
For more information on all the Catholic Church in the U.S. has done to respond to clergy sexual abuse of minors, go to:

Keywords: United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, clergy sexual abuse of minors, Charter, norms, Vatican, child pornography