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Pope Francis

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Church abuse analyst: 400 priests defrocked is due to stricter Vatican norms

2014-01-21

The Vatican made history when its delegation appeared before a United Nations committee to explain their efforts in tackling sex abuse. It was the first time it took questions from an outside group about what it has done to protect children.

FR. HANS ZOLLNER S.J.
Director, Center for Child Protection (Gregorian University)
"In some way, the Holy See has shown that it is committed to the process, committed to the convention it has signed, and is willing to follow also.”

Father Hans Zollner, is the director the Gregorian University's Center for Child Protection. Since 2012, when they organized a symposium on the topic, his center has been at the forefront of sex abuse prevention across parts of the globe.

He said the testimony before the UN Commission for the Protection of the Child shows the Vatican's willingness to clarify its stance, and to make up for past errors when handling abuse cases. 

FR. HANS ZOLLNER S.J.
Director, Center for Child Protection (Gregorian University)
"It's very difficult to convey to the public that when  you talk about the Church you talk about two entities: the Vatican City and the local churches that have to be in accordance with the global law, but they have to take responsibility about what happens at the local level.”

Under the Church's global law, sexual abuse of a child is a crime. But accusations must be dealt with at the local level, before making their way to the Vatican.

According to officials statistics, in 2011 and 2012, about 400 of the cases that made their way to the Vatican ended up with the priests being defrocked, or removed from the priesthood. 

FR. HANS ZOLLNER S.J.
Director, Center for Child Protection (Gregorian University)
"They concerned those priests whose trials had been going on for years, most of them. And whose cases refer back up to 50, 60 years back.” 

Fr. Zollner attributed those cases to the norms implemented in the past three years, to make Church legislation stricter. But he recognized that there is still much more the Church can do, especially in the area of prevention. 

The Pope's new commission, which Cardinal Sean O'Malley announced back in December, is expected to play a big role in that process. However, the Vatican still has not released the exact details of the commission's work, and who will be a part of it.


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