ROME — Father Robert Oliver, the Vatican’s new person responsible for investigating cases of clerical sex abuse, says that over three-quarters of the world’s conferences of bishops have developed guidelines for cases of alleged abuse.
At the same time, Father Oliver recalled that Pope Benedict XVI asked “all institutions, without exception...to comply with standards in the protection of children and young people.”
The project of requiring every bishops’ conference to create guidelines for responding to abuse allegations began with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issuing a circular letter to the world’s 112 episcopal conferences in May 2011.
Although Father Oliver — who was an archdiocesan priest in Boston when he was appointed to the key Vatican post of promoter of justice for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith — only began his job on Feb. 1, he delivered remarks to a Feb. 5 conference that was held at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, under the title “Toward Healing and Renewal.”
He reported that of the 112 conferences “more than three-quarters” have sent or are close to sending their responses to the doctrine office.
The highest response rates were from South America, North America, Oceania and Europe. The remaining conferences are working with the Vatican’s doctrine department to complete the process.
The circular letter called for attention to five areas in developing guidelines: assistance to victims of sexual abuse; child protection; the formation of future priests and religious; support for the priests accused of or found guilty of abuse; and collaboration with civil authorities.
Father Oliver also made some general observations about the drafts the doctrine congregation has already received.
He noted that the personal example of the Pope in meeting with sex abuse victims and listening to their pain with compassion “is having a great effect.”
In his previous post in the Boston archdiocese, Father Oliver said that he heard from victims about the harm inflicted on them, and he also heard about the sense of alienation and abandonment that priests felt in the wake of scandals.
In addition to the conferences’ guidelines, the Gregorian-based Center for Child Protection is running an online training module to promote the prevention of sexual abuse of minors.
Both Father Oliver and Jesuit Father Hans Zollner, who also presented at the conference, agreed that responding to sexual abuse and protecting children require a sustained and concerted effort on the part of the Church.