The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, in conjunction with The Catholic University of America, has been providing training for priest canon lawyers in the canonical procedures for implementing the Essential Norms for Diocesan/Eparchial Policies Dealing with Allegations of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Priests or Deacons.
The training has been led by Monsignor Charles Scicluna, Promoter of Justice of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The procedures outlined in the Essential Norms follow the procedures for cases of sexual abuse of minors by clergy promulgated by Pope John Paul II in his Apostolic Letter issued Motu Proprio entitled Sacramentorum sanctitatis tutela, dated April 30, 2001. These latter procedures are within the competence of the CDF.
Monsignor Thomas Green, member of the Faculty of Canon Law at CUA, and the Reverend Francis Morrissey, O.M.I., member of the Faculty of Canon Law at St. Paul’s University in Ottawa, have been other presenters at the Washington training sessions.
One group was trained during the week of February 17 and a second group has been undergoing training during the week of February 24.
After the training sessions, priest participants will be available to assist dioceses around the country in conducting the necessary judicial processes in cases of priests or deacons accused of sexual abuse of minors. They will act as judges, promoters of justice and advocates in these procedures which deal solely with the status of the cleric as a minister of the Church. They do not impede any civil trial or litigation that may be involved in a case. They do not interfere with any civil penalty that may be assessed against an offender.
Commenting on the training sessions, Father O’Connell, himself a canon lawyer, noted that “CUA, the only university in the United States offering degree programs in canon law, has a unique role and responsibility in meeting the needs of the Church and its people during this most difficult time. By providing further education for priest canonists, we are making our contribution to strengthening the Church’s structures of justice, compassion and healing for victims of clerical sexual abuse.”
In his welcoming remarks to the participants, Father O’Connell said the generous financial support of the Knights of Columbus helped make the training sessions possible.
The complete text of Father O’Connell’s welcoming remarks can be viewed at: http://publicaffairs.cua.edu/news/03USCCB_training_DOC.htm.
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