Vatican toughens policy on clerical paedophilia

The Vatican is to bring forward plans for tougher policing of Catholic clerics which could lead to more priests facing investigation over child sex abuse allegations.

Amid a continuing tide of revelations of paedophilia, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith – the body responsible for investigating serious crimes within the Church – will release a new "instruction" within days that will allow many more victims to have the chance to report attacks and seek justice, Vatican sources said yesterday.

Principally, the document will extend the church's statute of limitations, allowing Vatican officials to investigate suspected clerical paedophilia cases beyond the current limit, which is 10 years after a victim's 18th birthday.

Campaign groups note that many abuse victims feel unable to report their abuse for years or decades, with some attackers going unpunished when the statute of limitation kick in. Some commentators noted yesterday that existing limits have already been waived in some cases since 2002.

Downloading child pornography from the internet is also to be ruled a "grave" canonical crime for the first time, according to a report in La Repubblica, Italy's leading centre-left daily. Culprits could be punished by dismissal from the priesthood.

News of the new rules coincided with further unwelcome child-sex headlines from Belgium. It emerged on Tuesday that documents relating to the child sex killer Marc Dutroux were recovered from the office of Cardinal Godfried Danneels, during controversial raids last month on church property of the Mechelen-Brussels archdiocese.

The police seizures were part of an investigation into child abuse by Catholic clerics in Belgium. Police questioned the 77-year-old Cardinal, formerly head of the Catholic Church in Belgium, for 10 hours yesterday, according to Belgium press reports.

He was questioned as a witness not a suspect. However, questions have emerged about what Cardinal Danneels knew about the case of Roger Vangheluwe, the Belgian church's longest-serving bishop, who resigned in April after admitting sexually abusing a boy for years.

The new Vatican document is effectively an updated and strengthened version of a 2001 decree presented by Pope John Paul II, containing the ideas of the then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.

Both the incumbent Pope and his predecessor have come under fire in the past months for failing to act on suspected cases of abuse. Benedict XVI has been accused of failing to respond when, as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, he was told of two incidents in which paedophile priests in Germany and the US were a danger to children.

In addition, John Paul II's original document, Sacramentorum Sanctitatis Tutela, made no mention of the Church's obligation to work with civil authorities. And it is unclear whether the new rules will include any reference to civil reporting requirements, said Mgr Davide Cito, a canon lawyer and consultant at the Congregation.

He noted that such requirements varied from country to country, making blanket rules difficult for a document that is canonically binding on the Church around the globe.

However, in a separate set of guidelines published in April, the Vatican said that civil law regarding the reporting of sexual abuse of a minor to the police and other authorities should always be followed.

The updated document also takes account of various ad-hoc additions and modifications made over the past years and puts them into one permanent and legally binding document, Mgr Cito said.

Roman holiday

Pope Benedict XVI has planned to spend his summer holiday with theological writing, Mozart, organic food, and walks among the trees. In a break with tradition, the pontiff has not gone to an Alpine retreat, but arrived yesterday to spend July and August at Castel Gandolfo on the shore of Lake Albano, near Rome.

However, the traditional concert to greet the Pope at his summer residence has been cancelled because there wasn't enough money to pay for the orchestra, according to Corriere della Sera. When he's not relaxing, the Pontiff plans to start a new book on the childhood of Christ and also prepare the first draft of his fourth encyclical letter.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
musicOfficial chart could be moved to accommodate Friday international release day
Sport
Wes Brown is sent-off
football
News
i100
Sport
Italy celebrate scoring their second try
six nations
Sport
Glenn Murray celebrates scoring against West Ham
footballWest Ham 1 Crystal Palace 3
Arts and Entertainment
Drake continues to tease ahead of the release of his new album
music
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper / Office Co-ordinator

£9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This role is based within a small family run ...

Recruitment Genius: Designer - Print & Digital

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Design and marketing agenc...

Recruitment Genius: Quantity Surveyor

£46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This property investment firm are lookin...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales / Telemarketing Executive - OTE £30k / £35k plus

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company specialises provid...

Day In a Page

Chelsea vs Tottenham: Harry Kane was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope

Harry Kane interview

The striker was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope
The Last Word: For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?

Michael Calvin's Last Word

For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?
HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review