'An important and substantive response'

Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley released the following statement May 9 on Vos estis lux mundi -- Editor.

Following the international summit in Rome this past February, Pope Francis pledged "concrete measures" to respond to the clergy sexual abuse crisis in the Church. Vos estis lux mundi is one means of fulfilling that pledge, establishing specific mandatory protocols and reporting systems for matters concerning such abuse.

This document directly addresses needed improvements to the Church's response by requiring all dioceses in every country around the globe, within one year's time, to establish a public, accessible and reliable system for reporting crimes of clergy sexual abuse and any cover up of abuse. It also requires the establishment of new procedural norms for investigating crimes by bishops and supreme moderators of religious institutes, including both allegations of sexual abuse and any cover up by way of actions or omissions intended to conceal information or to interfere with investigations.

These new norms address the sexual abuse of minors and they also expand the definition of the "vulnerable persons" who suffer abuse. But it is also quite significant that Vos estis lux mundi includes adults who suffer sexual offenses through violence or intimidation or the abuse of authority. People who suffer abuse from those in positions of authority can include, for example, seminarians and religious.

It is notable and of great importance that the new provisions require that information be given to the victim of an alleged offense regarding investigations and, further, that the Holy Father places particular emphasis on lay persons participating in the investigations.

During the past year it has become far more clear that the people of the Church and our wider society rightfully demand substantive action for disclosure, transparency and accountability with regard to any occurrence of sexual abuse, or intimidation, or cover up in the life of the Church and that all Church personnel, regardless of office, be subject to the same policies, procedures and sanctions. Vos estis lux mundi is an important and substantive response to that demand. I am grateful to the Holy Father for his recognition of the critical need for these new policies and procedures and his actions to as best possible assure the protection of all the people we serve throughout the world.