Dicastery for Clergy signs agreement on protection of minors
By Salvatore Cernuzio
Spaces for listening to and welcoming survivors, collaboration for safeguarding in the particular Churches, initial and ongoing training of priests on the “ministry of safeguarding”; as well as provisions for the exchange of information in order to compile an annual report that will be delivered to the Pope.
These are the key points of the agreement, signed last Friday, 26 May, by the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors and the Dicastery for the Clergy, the second agreement between the Commission created by Pope Francis in 2014 and a curial institution after the reform established by Praedicate Evangelium that included the anti-abuse body in the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith.
The second agreement with a Dicastery
The first agreement, signed on 21 April, with the Dicastery for Evangelisation, represented by Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, aimed at strengthening efforts to prevent abuse in the particular Churches. Today's agreement, defined by the Commission as an "agreement of collaboration and exchange of information," is also intended to serve the local Churches as well as priests and, above all, victims of abuse.
Listening, protection, formation
Three are the main areas of the new agreement, which was signed by the Prefect of the Dicastery, Korean Cardinal Lazarus You Heung-Sik; and the President of the Commission, Cardinal Sean O'Malley.
Specifically, it establishes, first, that "spaces and facilities within the Dicastery's competence will be created to welcome and listen to survivors and those who seek to report cases of abuse".
Second, the agreement provides for collaboration "on the protection aspects contained in the Ratio Nationalis", the document drafted and adopted by each particular Church that regulates all aspects of priestly formation, "adapting them to the local cultural context".
Third, the document calls for "facilitating the promotion of an initial and ongoing formation of clergy, increasingly sensitive to the ministry of safeguarding the Church".
Information for the Annual Report
The collaboration between the entities of the Roman Curia will provide information for the Commission's Annual Report, as requested by the Pope in his private audience with the body's members in April 2022. The invitation reiterated by Pope Francis in the private audience of May 2023, when he asked the members of the Commission to "improve the guidelines and standards of behaviour of the clergy and religious", while expressing his hopes for an annual report "on what is working well and what is not working", so that "appropriate changes can be made".
Cardinal O'Malley: An encouraging milestone
For Cardinal O'Malley this second Agreement "marks another encouraging milestone for the Commission in its new position within the Curia".
The collaboration with the Dicastery for the Clergy, adds the Archbishop of Boston, "allows us to open important channels of communication with the office that serves the formation of our priests around the world. Priests and deacons are, perhaps, the most visible face of the daily life of the Church, so it is essential to ensure that their lives and ministry are subject to good policies and procedures regarding the safeguarding of children and vulnerable people”.
Cardinal You Heung-Sik: A joint effort
For his part, the Prefect of the Dicastery for the Clergy, Korean Cardinal You Heung-Sik, emphasises that the commitment of the Dicastery he has presided over since June 2021 "in this difficult area of the Church's ministry" is "further expressed" by today's cooperation agreement: "We hope, through our joint effort, to deepen our understanding of the impact of abuse on victims and survivors and how best to accompany them, as well as to offer good practices of prevention and assistance to our priests, who are called, as Pope Francis has said, to be 'apostles of Safeguarding' for their communities."
Commitment that is strengthened
The work of the Commission for the Protection of Minors, which held a plenary assembly in Rome at the beginning of May, is thus strengthened. From those days of meeting and reflection, new strategies and new proposals were drawn up to continue the present and future work.
Among the new initiaves are: "a new universal framework" to update the guidelines of the Doctrine of the Faith twelve years ago; a Fund with contributions from the Bishops' Conferences for training and assistance to victims; and action plans against online child abuse. All are intended to improve standards of conduct and safeguard the Church from the horrendous crime of sexual abuse.