The Catholic Benefits Association said last week that sexual abuse norms introduced by Pope Francis in May will likely require U.S. dioceses to amend their own internal policies regarding the definition and reporting of sexual abuse and misconduct.
In an Oct. 3 webinar, L. Martin Nussbaum, general counsel for the Catholic Benefits Association, told diocesan leaders and administrators that Vos estis lux mundi, the motu proprio on sexual abuse and misconduct issued by Pope Francis May 7, takes important steps to provide a safer environment in the Church, which require implementation by dioceses.
Vos estis, Nussbaum said, expands diocesan duties regarding vulnerable persons and abuse of authority, protects Church whistleblowers, increases the role of laity in receiving reports and in conducting investigations, improves transparency regarding discipline of bishops, heightens the ecclesial role of metropolitans, and expands offers of assistance to the families of abuse victims.
“Families are injured, often, when a family member is abused…especially if it’s a minor,” Nussbaum told Church leaders.
“The outreach should also be to families,” he said, noting that Vos estis explicitly recognized that reality, and called dioceses to respond to it.
Nussbaum also explained that diocesan sexual abuse policies should take into account the Church’s expanded delineation of canonically criminal sexual behavior, which Vos estis broadened to include any kind of coercive sexual harrasment or abuse of office, and a broadened understanding of the canonical concept of “vulnerable persons.”
Diocesan policies should focus on the sexual abuse, harassment, coercion, etc, of both adults and minors, Nussbaum said, in recognition of the Church’s expanded delineation of canonical crimies involving sexual abuse or harassment of adults. Revisions to diocesan policies must also include Vos estis’ call to report allegations of misconduct by bishops to the metropolitan archbishop of the diocese.
The Catholic Benefits Association, which advocates for the religious liberty of dioceses and other Catholic institutions, makes resources related to Vos estis available to its member dioceses.