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Church improves sex abuse procedures, but uncertainty persists

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Rebecca Valli

On Thursday, Pope Francis announced new norms for the Catholic Church’s internal handling of sexual abuse accusations. The law, titled ‘Vos estis lux mundi,’ sets global standards for officials who report and investigate sexual abuse allegations against clergy, and offers protection for whistleblowers.


Kim Haines-Eitzen

Professor of Ancient Mediterranean Religions with a specialty in Early Christianity, Early Judaism, and Religion in Late Antiquity in the Department of Near Eastern Studies.

Kim Haines-Eitzen, professor of religious studies at Cornell University, says that the law is a step towards more accountability.

Haines-Eitzen says:

“The Pope’s Motu Proprio, ‘Vos estis lux mundi’ (You are the light of the world), is a step forward to greater transparency and accountability for cases of sexual abuse brought against clerics.

“However, we should pay attention to what the Pope means by a statement at the outset: ‘a continuous and profound conversion of hearts is needed’ so that such abuses do not happen.  

“In the past, the Catholic Church has in cases of corruption launched major educational programs for priests, it has in cases of dissent and dispute within its own ranks rethought its own hierarchical structures and the scriptural bases for its canon law. It has also been willing to take strong action against leaders found to be guilty.

“Key to this new statement from the Vatican is understanding whose ‘conversion of hearts’ it has in mind: the leadership, the laity, the victims, or the perpetrators?”


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