By Vatican News
Bishops in India are ready to implement the instructions contained in the new Vademecum of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on procedures to be followed in cases of sexual abuse of minors committed by members of the clergy.
Archbishop Felix Anthony Machado, secretary-general of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI) told the UCA News agency, “We will implement the guidelines in accordance with our civil laws.”
“The Vatican has always been concerned about all forms of abuses including the [sexual abuse of children],” he said, adding that “The July 16 set of guidelines is nothing entirely new but is a follow-up of what it has already been doing.”
Guidelines in India
In 2015 Indian bishops drew up guidelines on the procedures to be followed in dealing with cases of sexual abuse of children by clerics.
In 2017 another document was drawn up on the sexual harassment of women working in institutions run by the Church. It was prepared by the Bishops with the aim of "creating a safe and healthy working environment, where employees can move peacefully without fear of prejudice or harassment of any kind".
On July 16 the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) published an “instruction manual”, to help ascertain the truth in cases of minors who have suffered abuse on the part of a member of the clergy.
It is a tool designed to help Ordinaries and legal professionals who need to apply canonical norms to actual cases regarding the delicta graviora (more serious delict or crime).
The request for this guide was made during the Global Meeting of the Presidents of the Episcopal Conferences on the Protection of Minors held in the Vatican in February 2019.
In his 2019 apostolic letter Vos estis lux mundi, Pope Francis stipulated that all priests and members of religious orders are obligated to report any suspicions of abuse to their superiors. The Vatican also wants bishops to report such cases to civil authorities in countries where there is no mandatory reporting protocol. It says that “failure to do so can lead to their removal from office for dereliction of duty.”
In India the reporting of the sexual abuse of children is mandatory and those failing to do so face a minimum of one year in prison.
Speaking to the UCA News Agency, Father Abraham Kavilpurayidathil, public relations officer of the Eastern-rite Syro-Malabar Church based in Kerala, said all its dioceses have already formed safe environment committees for the proper execution of Vatican guidelines to deal with cases of sexual abuse.
The committees, established on June 1, will look into allegations referring to Vatican guidelines in accordance with India’s civil law.
In February of this year, 192 bishops at the plenary of the CBCI in Bengaluru affirmed that they will not tolerate any kind of sexual abuse.