Vos Estis Lux Mundi: Pope Francis Issues Global Standards for Handling of Clergy Abuse

This week, Pope Francis signed an apostolic letter Vos Estis Lux Mundi (You are the Light of the World) that set global standards for the reporting and investigation of clergy sexual abuse. This letter is the fruit of the February meeting at the Vatican to address the abuse crisis in the Church, and sets new norms for how Church leaders are to respond to accusations of abuse by members of the clergy. In the beginning of his letter, Pope Francis says:

The crimes of sexual abuse offend Our Lord, cause physical, psychological and spiritual damage to the victims and harm the community of the faithful. In order that these phenomena, in all their forms, never happen again, a continuous and profound conversion of hearts is needed, attested by concrete and effective actions that involve everyone in the Church, so that personal sanctity and moral commitment can contribute to promoting the full credibility of the Gospel message and the effectiveness of the Church’s mission. This becomes possible only with the grace of the Holy Spirit poured into our hearts, as we must always keep in mind the words of Jesus: “Apart from me you can do nothing” (Jn 15:5). Even if so much has already been accomplished, we must continue to learn from the bitter lessons of the past, looking with hope towards the future.

To help analyze this new document, Dr. Matthew Bunson stopped by The Drew Mariani Show™ this week and told Drew, “It’s an impressive document. And I say that because we have been grappling now for a year with the question of how do we hold bishops accountable in the wake of … the McCarrick scandal. And this, in some ways, is the Holy See’s response to all of that.”

On how these new standards respond to the issues the McCarrick scandal raised, Bunson said, “It holds bishops accountable. It expands the understanding of vulnerable person. But it also focuses heavily on defending and protecting seminarians, who were, of course, subject to part of the scandal. It also ensures that there will be lay involvement in the reporting up and down the spectrum. This really is a concrete result from the February meeting.”

But now that these new global standards are in place, what will happen next? While the hope is that there would be no need to have these new procedures enacted, Bunson pointed out that having clear procedures in place will better allow the truth to be known and justice to be served.

“The ideal would be that we don’t have any cases,” he said. “But I think it’s important that those who have been abused, that those who have cases to report do so. And we need to have a proper mechanism for investigating, as we have in the United States for priests and deacons. Now we also hopefully have one that’s effective in reporting and taking care of cases involving bishops. So while it may be an immense amount of work, now we can point to a global set of norms. And that is pretty significant.”

“This is a significant step in dealing with clergy sexual abuse across the globe, and that is very key to note,” Bunson emphasized. “It is a very clear commitment and mandate that this is no longer acceptable, that we have to deal with this, and that includes holding bishops accountable.”

Read the full document here and listen to the full conversation with Dr. Matthew Bunson below:

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