By Anne Kurian

It is “progress for the transparency of the Church and a strong signal of collaboration with the legitimate Authorities of a democratic state,” said Father Hans Zollner, member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, hailing Pope Francis’ rescript abolishing the pontifical secret for sex abuse cases by members of the clergy.

The day after the announcement, December 18, 2019, the President of the Center for the Protection of Minors of the Gregorian University explained that the “documentation regarding accusations and the investigation of abuse on minors may be requested by the civil magistracy not only from the Holy See but also from dioceses or Religious Congregations.”

This cooperation is already in action in certain regions of the world, recalled the German Jesuit, quoting the example of the United States, where the Bishops have handed over their documentation to the Authorities. Where there is no collaboration, it’s about responding to legitimate requests to protect the victims, go to the bottom of investigations on these crimes and punish those culpable.”

Last February, during the Summit of Presidents of the world’s Episcopal Conferences, there was an awareness and a will to act never seen before.” So the Holy See organs “gained new momentum” with the law of June 1, 2019, targeting abuse cover-ups, he explained.

In the future, Father Zollner awaits “the vademecum that was announced some time ago: the guidelines for the diocesan courts and the Bishops of the world explaining how to proceed in cases of abuse and what criteria to use to punish certain crimes. This will be very useful especially for mission lands and other countries “where the juridical system is less developed.

Finally, Father Zollner hailed the Pope’s second rescript concerning the holding or use of pornographic images of minors aged under 18 years, which counts among the gravest crimes reserved to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. This crime concerns minors under 14 years of age: it’s not “reasonable” to fix it at this age, Father Zollner thinks. It’s necessary “to adapt to international legislations,” he concluded.

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