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22 Feb, 2019 02:22

Psych evaluations & strict code of conduct: Pope offers ‘concrete’ steps to fight sexual abuse

Psych evaluations & strict code of conduct: Pope offers ‘concrete’ steps to fight sexual abuse

Pope Francis has proposed a list of 21 initiatives he believes will stall the erosion of trust in the Catholic Church which has been plagued by numerous sexual abuse scandals and accusations of trying to sweep them under the rug.

Trying to apply maximum pressure to convince the clergy to confront the issue, the Pope opened a landmark summit on ‘The Protection of Minors in the Church’ by presenting a “practical handbook” which should serve as “a simple starting point” for the Vatican to overcome its sexual abuse crisis.

We need to be concrete

“The holy People of God look to us, and expect from us not simple and predictable condemnations, but concrete and effective measures to be undertaken,” Francis stressed Thursday in the Vatican, as nearly 200 clerics began debating ways to respond to the emergency.

The so-called Reflection Points, formulated by the various Episcopal Commissions and Conferences, seek to create specific rules for those wishing to enter the priesthood to make sure the candidates achieve spiritual and psychosexual maturity prior to being ordained into celibate service to God, through psychological evaluations.”

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Clergy found guilty of sexual abuse of minors must “leave” the public ministry, one of the points’ demands, while another proposal calls for the creation of mandatory codes of conduct to define the appropriate boundaries in personal relationships.

Among other ideas there’s a proposal to establish specific protocols for handling accusations against bishops and allowing lay specialists to participate in abuse investigations.

In an effort to better serve the interests of minors, the pontiff also urged an amendment to the Code of Canon Law, raising the minimum age of marriage from 14 to 16.

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Parishes across the world are also being asked to set up an anonymous hotline to report abuse cases, while also encouraging the congregation to spread awareness about the causes and consequences” of sexual crimes.

The Pope’s document does not have binding power and was distributed on the first day of the conference so that the conversation among bishops can get rolling. Whether or not the “concrete” steps Francis has called for will be reflected at the conclusion of the historic summit is yet to be seen.

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