LICATHOLIC.ORG | Your Source for Local & Global Catholic News 

Diocese of Rockville Centre

Statement on Universal Norms Print E-mail
Friday, 16 July 2010 14:00
-Bishop William Murphy

The Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith published today the new “Norms concerning the most serious crimes”. These norms are now universal law of the Church. I welcome them and thank the Holy Father for having given the universal Church a set of norms that will help me and every bishop to fulfill our responsibilities, especially regarding the handling of allegations of sexual abuse of children and minors by clerics.

In 2001, Pope John Paul II gave the Church a motu proprio or law, that assigned the handling of these “more grave crimes” to the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith. After the U.S. bishops meeting in Dallas in 2002, when the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young Persons was adopted, the Holy See gave to the bishops of the United States some particular law, Essential Norms, that allowed the bishops to process these cases as we have done since that time with the help of the Holy See. All these Norms remain in force for the Church in the United States.

Most of what the U.S. bishops received at that time has become the bulk of the new norms which now become universal law. This is important to note. By becoming “universal norms”, these provisions become enshrined in Church law and so move beyond the initiative of a particular pope or a particular region to become binding as law for the whole Church from this moment forward.

It is also good to note some new additions. The time allowed to bring a case against a cleric has been doubled from ten years to twenty years after one’s 18th birthday. In addition, in certain circumstances the Congregation can make an exception and suspend the statute of limitations in order to bring charges against the alleged perpetrator in a church tribunal. This is not to be confused with “windows legislation” that is a particularly American civil-law phenomenon which, for valid reasons, the bishops of New York have opposed and will continue to oppose.

Another addition is that now a person with a mental handicap, whatever that person’s age, will be treated as a minor in the law and thus has the same protection and recourse as any minor against sexual abuse.

Some have wondered why the issue of the attempted ordination of women should be included in this new set of norms. To understand that, one has to remember that these Norms establish the competence or responsibility for addressing “more grave crimes” (graviora delicta) that touch all the sacramental life of the Church. The Roman Pontiffs have consistently taught that the priestly ordination is not open to women. This is the constant teaching of the Church. To simulate a sacrament is a serious crime. What these norms do regarding this matter is to place into law the process by which the “delictum gravius” of attempting to ordain a woman or of a woman seeking to be ordained can be properly addressed in the Church’s legal system through the competent authority, the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith. Thus, because the subject of the Norms was all “more grave crimes”, the matter of attempted ordination of women, not just the issue of sexual abuse of the young, was addressed.

Msgr. Scicluna, the priest who is in charge of handling these cases, explained this very carefully. The Norms address any actions that concern sacraments. Sex abuse is a “moral” crime by someone in holy orders. The attempt to ordain is an attempt to simulate a sacrament. Therefore it is a very serious “sacramental” crime that has a serious negative effect on the life of the Church. No one should confuse this with a “moral crime” such as sex abuse. Nor should anyone wrongly conclude that this places in question the Church’s deep appreciation and esteem for women and all the many contributions, including leadership, they make to the Church. The NY Times story has it exactly wrong in its opening sentence. The confusion mentioned there was not from the Holy See but from the writer and editors of the NY Times.

Be assured that the Diocese of Rockville Centre has acted always according to the Norms already in force in our country and will continue to do so with total adherence to the new Universal Norms of the Catholic Church. As a bishop who seeks to lead, teach and govern this Church according to the mandate of Christ and the magisterium of the Church I am grateful to the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, for his fatherly and pastoral care of the Church in these most important matters where the Church seeks to bring justice to those who were wronged and to reach out to all who have been affected by these horrendous crimes offering the paternal care and sincere love of the Church that seeks always to address the injustices, seek reconciliation and offer God’s love to one and all, especially those who have been abused.

+William Murphy
Bishop of Rockville Centre
July 14, 2010

Bishop Murphy with Pope Benedict XVI

Statement from Bishop William Murphy on New CDF Norms


The Vatican Information Service

-Vatican Publishes New Norms Concerning Most Serious Crimes

Vatican Radio