Vatican: Paedophile priests must be handed to civil justice

Priest sex abusers should “always” be turned in to civil authorities, the Vatican said on Monday in guidelines on handling paedophilia cases posted on its website.

“Civil law concerning reporting of crimes to the appropriate authorities should always be followed,” state the guidelines compiled from existing Vatican rules.

The document also confirms that the pope can intervene directly to defrock the worst offenders.

“In very grave cases where a civil criminal trial has found the cleric guilty of sexual abuse of minors or where the evidence is overwhelming” the pope may issue a decree to remove him from the priesthood.

“If the allegation has a semblance of truth the case is referred to the CDF,” they say, referring to the Vatican’s morals watchdog, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

“There is no canonical remedy against such a papal decree,” add the guidelines, drawn from the Church’s canon law and a papal instruction signed in 2001 by then Pope John Paul II.

The decree on “serious crimes” was drafted by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger — now Pope Benedict XVI — when he headed the CDF.

The Vatican announced on Friday that it would post the guidelines as a way of helping Roman Catholic authorities deal with predator priests.

Large-scale paedophilia scandals have rocked the Catholic churches of Ireland, Austria, the United States and the pope’s native Germany in recent months.

The pontiff, who turns 83 on Friday, has himself faced allegations that he failed to take action against predator priests both as head of the CDF and earlier as the archbishop of Munich. — AFP

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