From Archbishop Bernard A. Hebda
I welcome the legislation issued today by Pope Francis to address in a global way the harm caused by the sexual abuse of minors and adults by clergy, including bishops. This scourge of abusive acts – and the lack of clear procedures to respond effectively to them – as well as the failure of some bishops and other Church leaders to respond appropriately to reports of abuse, has profoundly harmed far too many. Inadequate responses in the past, moreover, have also weakened the credibility of the Church as she strives to give witness to the good news of Jesus.
I am grateful that the Holy Father has acted so decisively to enact legislation that reflects the input offered at the historic meeting of Church leaders from around the world that he convened in Rome this past February. Pope Francis’ actions reflect the urgent need to take concrete steps and provide clear direction for reporting and investigating allegations of sexual abuse of minors and adults by all clergy, including bishops. These groundbreaking provisions, to be applied throughout the world, respond to gaps in the laws and structures of the Church. I am grateful that these new norms envision the meaningful engagement of lay experts, whose professional skills are clearly needed to accomplish this difficult work. I am also pleased that the norms make it clear that bishops, cardinals and other Church leaders are to be held accountable for their actions.
In the past year, Bishop Cozzens and I have been publicly calling for a new structure that allows claims against bishops to be investigated and evaluated objectively. Today’s legislation does that.