Following my attendance at the week-long February meeting in the Vatican on ‘The Protection of Minors in the Church’,I am pleased to see that Pope Francis has so quickly issued further specific concrete actions to dealwith the issue of abuse. The need to do so was highlighted during and following the meeting, and this apostolic letter in the form of a Motu Proprio Vos Estis Lux Mundi (You are the Light of the World), marks a significant move for the global Church.
Survivors of abuse and the faithful expect the Church to model best practice in the protection of children and vulnerable persons, to have robust procedures to deal with any allegations, and to ensure proper management of all cases.
Yesterday’s announcement represents another aspect of what the Holy Father has called, ‘the commitment to personal and collective conversion, the humility of learning, listening, assisting and protecting the most vulnerable.’ This continual work is extremely important in the path of purification in the Church.
Whilst the letter issued by the Pope yesterday is primarily about universal Church law, it affirms many of the practices which we are already observing in Ireland, particularly the need to report promptly all allegations to the statutory authorities and to fully respect and cooperate with State laws and investigations.
The letter also affirms the involvement of lay people, the thoroughness of investigations, and the care and protection offered to those who have been harmed. I wish to express my thanks to the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church in Ireland for ensuring that our procedures are continually evaluated and improved, and to the agencies Towards Healing and Towards Peace, which have spearheaded a major outreach to survivors of abuse in the Church.
The scope of this new universal Church law also emphasises particular dimensions of safeguarding and response which we will need to ensure are fully observed, such as the care which vulnerable persons need, the protection of those who report abuse, the avoidance of any culture of silence and the offence of ‘covering up’ – actions or omissions intended to avoid or interfere with civil or canonical investigations, and abuse of authority.