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Protecting the flock

November 20, 2010

The Vatican has said it is working on a new set of guidelines for bishops, making them more responsible for protecting victims of abuse by clerics. Cooperation with civilian authorities is said to be a core principle.

A priests's hand close up, holding a rosary and a church statement on abuse cases.
The Vatican says it won't cover up future cases of sexual abuseImage: picture alliance/dpa

The Roman Catholic Church has announced that it's working on a new set of guidelines for bishops on preventing and responding to cases of abuse by clerics.

About three quarters of the world's Catholic cardinals converged at the Vatican Friday to hold a rare gathering discussing this issue, as well as religious freedom and accepting converts from the Anglican Church.

Cardinal William Levada, the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith - the body in charge of church dogma - led the closed-door discussions, and later issued a statement promising a "coordinated and effective program" of response and prevention that would involve "greater responsibility of bishops for the protection of faithful entrusted to them."

Levada also spoke to the participants about "cooperation with civilian authorities, the need for an effective protection of children and young people, and a careful selection of future priests."

The Vatican described the meeting as "a day of prayer and reflection" on a number of challenges facing the Catholic Church.

The church has been struggling to deal with repeated scandals across much of Europe - including Germany - and the US, over hundreds of cases of sexual abuse of children and young people by priests that were subsequently covered up by higher ranking members of the clergy.

Critics not satisfied with 'symbolic gestures'

Victims of sexual abuse staged protests in Rome to coincide with the meeting, and have said the Vatican is not doing enough to protect children from future abuse, or to investigate past cases.

"We didn't have high hopes for this meeting, because these church officials are the same men who ignored and concealed," a US-based victims abuse group, Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), said in a statement after the meeting.

"We want the bishops to turn over to police and prosecutors the personnel files of proven, admitted and credibly accused child-molesting clerics," SNAP's Barbara Blaine said, describing the Vatican's proposals as "symbolic gestures."

German cardinal Walter Kasper, however, praised the meeting, saying it had encouraged Catholic bishops around the world "to continue to fight this evil."

Author: Mark Hallam (AFP, Reuters)
Editor: Martin Kuebler