ROME — The “tsunami” of clerical sex abuse cases arriving in the Vatican threatens to overwhelm the doctrinal office (CDF) responsible for processing them, according to the Irish monsignor in charge.
Speaking with the Associated Press (AP), Monsignor John Kennedy, who heads the discipline section of the CDF, said that a record 1,000 cases arrived from all over the world during 2019.
“We’re effectively seeing a tsunami of cases at the moment, particularly from countries where we never heard from (before),” Kennedy said, while clarifying that most of the charges of abuse refer to incidents that took place years or even decades ago.
“I know cloning is against Catholic teaching, but if I could actually clone my officials and have them work three shifts a day or work seven days a week,” we might make the necessary headway, Kennedy said.
In 2001 the Vatican centralized responsibility for reviewing abuse allegations in the CDF, but the number of cases has quadrupled over the past decade while the number of staff has stayed roughly the same, with a total of only 17 officials.
According to updated procedures, bishops and religious superiors who receive an accusation of clerical abuse must conduct a preliminary investigation. If the allegations prove credible, the documentation is then sent to the Vatican, which will inform the bishop on how to proceed: moving to a full canonical trial, a more expedited “administrative” procedure, or something else. In some cases, the CDF itself takes over the investigation.
Each case arriving in the Vatican requires time to process and cannot be rushed.
“We’re going to look at it forensically and guarantee that the just outcome will be given,” Kennedy said.
In the ten-year period from 2004 to 2014, some 848 priests were laicized around the world, and another 2,572 were punished with lesser penalties, the AP reported, although numbers have declined since then.
As Breitbart News reported, this week Pope Francis eliminated the code of pontifical secrecy for dealings of the Roman Curia in cases involving the sexual abuse of minors.
Whereas according to Church law members of the Vatican Curia are obliged to confidentiality concerning information that they come to know through their official work, this code will no longer apply in specific instances concerning abuse.
According to the archbishop of Malta, Charles Scicluna, the update represents “an epochal decision,” because “the question of transparency now is being implemented at the highest level.”
The sort of actions no longer covered by the pontifical secret include “cases of violence and sexual acts committed under threat or abuse of authority; cases of the sexual abuse of minors or vulnerable persons; cases of child pornography; cases regarding the lack of reporting and the cover-up of the abusers on the part of bishops and superiors general of religious institutes,” Vatican News reported.
The lifting of the pontifical secret does not affect the obligation to maintain the seal of confession for information obtained by priests through the sacrament of penance.