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Most bishops’ conferences miss Vatican deadline on drafting abuse guidelines

Mgr Scicluna pictured at a penitential vigil in Rome (CNS photo)

Most of the bishops’ conferences around the world have missed a Vatican deadline on drawing up anti-abuse guidelines, it emerged yesterday.

But Mgr Charles Scicluna, the Vatican’s top investigator of clerical sex abuse, said that many bishops’ conferences in Africa drafted guidelines in time but were let down by the very slow post. He said that without counting Africa “more than half of the conferences responded” to the May deadline.

Mgr Scicluna, promoter of justice in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, was speaking in an interview with the Italian monthly magazine Jesus.

He said that all those who did not send in their proposed guidelines would be getting “a letter of reminder”.

The Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, quoted from the interview yesterday and said that the congregation received an encouraging number of responses from Anglo-Saxon countries, “but also Europe, Asia and Latin America have high percentages of responses”.

While the result is gratifying, Mgr Scicluna said in the interview, Africa “has a particular situation with great difficulty in Church structures”, presumably referring to the lack of needed communications and other infrastructure that help a nation’s bishops draw up national policies.

Evaluating each country’s proposed policies and guidelines for dealing with cases of clerical sexual abuse of minors will take “at least a year”, and that process will not begin until after the summer, he said.

More than 4,000 cases of sexual abuse have been reported to the doctrinal office over the past decade, the office reported earlier this year. Cardinal William Levada, former prefect of the CDF, said those cases revealed that an exclusively canonical response to the crisis had been inadequate and that a multifaceted and more pro-active approach by all bishops and religious orders was needed.

Countries such as the United States, Canada, Australia and Germany are among those with the most comprehensive and binding guidelines or norms, but in many cases, those norms came only in the wake of revelations in the media of abuse, the cardinal said.

Bishops’ conferences have been encouraged to develop “effective, quick, articulated, complete and decisive plans for the protection of children”, bringing perpetrators to justice and assisting victims, “including in countries where the problem has not manifested itself in as dramatic a way as in others”, the Vatican said in November 2010.