In an earlier article I gave an overview of the main stages of the clerical sex abuse crisis and the response from the Church during recent pontificates. Now I wish to present some examples of local documents and on-the-ground initiatives. This will help gain a better understanding of the lines along which the response of the Church develops, where it is already clear and operational. It will also show which lines of approach can be developed where first steps are currently taking place.
In 2011 the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith sent all episcopal conferences a circular letter asking them to set out guidelines on how to address cases of sexual abuse by members of the clergy in light of the canonical norms renewed by Benedict XVI. So began an important process of reflection and writing that is still ongoing in dialogue with the Congregation, which receives the drafts from different parts of the world and offers observations, mainly on the canonical aspects. To give a summary idea of the situation, about half of the episcopal conferences have completed the revision of their projects after receiving observations, and so have a document that has been officially approved (even if only ad experimentum, that is, open to being revised in the future); a quarter have nearly completed their work, having received observations and are setting about their definitive revision; a quarter are still behind for various reasons, which include the different cultural contexts and the lack of available skills.
Episcopal documents: the example from Canada
Several episcopal conferences have learned from experience that it is not enough to respond to abuse cases in a legally correct way, only. There is a need to widen scrutiny of the case to include an understanding of the causes, circumstances and dynamics of abuse, and look ahead with a view to preventing it in future. So, documents have been published that include the nucleus of the requested guidelines in the strict sense, but also provide a wider orientation for bishops and indeed the entire ecclesial community. A significant example is seen in the document Protecting Minors from Sexual Abuse published by the bishops of Canada in June 2018.