Vatican tell bishops to root out sexual abuse

Mon May 16, 2011 11:11am EDT
 

By Philip Pullella

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - The Vatican told bishops around the world on Monday that they must make it a global priority to root out sexual abuse of children by priests.

The headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church told bishops in a letter that they should cooperate with civil authorities to end the abuse that has tarnished its image around the world.

"This is telling the world that we mean business. We want to be an example of prevention and care," said one Vatican official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The letter is intended to help every diocese draw up its own tough guidelines, based on a global approach but in line with local criminal law. These must be sent to the Vatican for review within a year.

"The responsibility for dealing with delicts (crimes) of sexual abuse of minors by clerics belongs in the first place to the diocesan bishop," the letter says.

It incorporates sweeping revisions made last year to the Church's laws on sexual abuse, which doubled a statute of limitations for disciplinary action against priests and extended the use of fast-track procedures to defrock them.

The Vatican has for years been struggling to control the damage that sexual abuse scandals in the United States and several European countries, including Pope Benedict's native Germany, have done to the Church's image.

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