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Church in Crisis

Text of letter calling for joint commission on abuse norms

The following excerpts are from an Oct. 14 letter of Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, prefect of the Vatican Congregation for Bishops, to Belleville, Ill., Bishop Wilton Gregory, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, on the establishment of a joint Vatican-U.S. bishops commission on sex abuse norms:

The Apostolic See acknowledges the efforts which the bishops of the United States have made through the norms and the guidelines contained in the bishops’ “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People” to protect minors and to avoid future recurrences of abuses. Such efforts should also help to preserve or restore the trust of the faithful in their pastors.

Despite the efforts, the application of the policies adopted at the plenary assembly in Dallas can be the source of confusion and ambiguity, because the norms and charter contain provisions which in some aspects are difficult to reconcile with the universal law of the church. Moreover, the experience of the last few months has shown that the terminology of these documents is at times vague or imprecise and therefore difficult to interpret. Questions also remain concerning the concrete manner in which the procedures outlined in the norms and charter are to be applied in conjunction with the requirements of the Code of Canon Law and the motu proprio -- [a papal document originating from the pope’s own office] Sacramentorum Sanctitatis Tutela “Defense of the Most Holy Sacraments.”

For these reasons, it has been judged appropriate that before the recognitio can be granted, a further reflection on and revision of the norms and the charter are necessary. In order to facilitate this work, the Holy See proposes that a mixed commission be established, composed of four bishops chosen from the episcopal conference of the United States and four representatives from those dicasteries of the Holy See which have direct competence in the matter: the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Congregation for Bishops, the Congregation for Clergy and the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts.

National Catholic Reporter, November 01, 2002