Sipe offered qualified praise of
the newly published policy. "It is a step forward, no
question about that," he said. "It's a step toward reason.
But it is not the reform of the system."
Nicholas Cafardi, a canon law
specialist at the Duquesne University Law School, had a
similar reaction. Cafardi was a member of the National
Review Board for the Protection of Children and Youth,
established as part of the 2002 charter that overhauled U.S.
church policy on handling sexual abuse. That document
included the policy that police be notified of every sexual
"Now, eight years later, the
Holy See is saying, yes, you have to comply with civil
reporting laws. It's new in that sense, in that it's clearly
applicable to the entire church," Cafardi said. "It's a good
start, but it's nowhere near enough."
He said he would like to see
the Vatican adopt other aspects of the U.S. policy,
including the "zero tolerance" rule that automatically bars
priests from active ministry if they are found to have
molested children. Until it does, he said, the church is
likely to see a never-ending string of sexual abuse
scandals. "It's like watching the same guy falling down the
same set of steps over and over again," he said.
Tod Tamberg, a spokesman for
the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, noted that since 1997,
clergy in California have been among those mandated by state
law to report any allegation of child sexual abuse.
The Vatican's primer
reiterates that any complaint of sexual abuse with "a
semblance of truth" must be sent for examination to the
Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the
office headed by Benedict before he became pontiff.
Penalties for clerics found guilty of such acts include a
"life of prayer and penance" or, in "very grave" instances,
immediate defrocking by the pope.
Publication of the guidelines
comes after weeks of spiraling allegations of priestly abuse
and church cover-up in countries including Germany, the
Netherlands and Austria.
Later this week, Benedict is
scheduled to make his first foreign visit since the scandal
erupted, to staunchly Catholic Malta. But the crisis has
spread there as well, with reports that 45 of the nation's
850 priests have been accused of abuse.