Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi said Saturday that the new norms on sexual abuse are an "important step," but, he warned, law "is not everything" in the battle against serious sins. He observed that the Church's path to a "purer and more evangelical witness" will not be short.
Fr. Lombardi reflected on the effects of the updates to Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) norms concerning the "most serious" sins on his weekly Vatican Television editorial "Octava dies." The details of the updates were released during a press briefing he gave on Thursday with CDF promoter of justice, Msgr. Charles Scicluna.
In his editorial, the Vatican spokesman said that with the publication of the norms, "the Church has taken an important step in addressing the question (of sexual abuse) with responses that will be lasting and have a profound impact.
"Clear and well-known laws are an essential guide for any large community, such as the Catholic Church, which must have its own common rules." These rules remain autonomous from those of the many countries in which they exist, he explained, adding that "the just civil laws must obviously be respected and put into practice by men of the Church, as by every citizen, also for the crimes of abuse."
Highlighting some of the standout elements of the quite extensive updates to canonical procedures, he said that the modifications enable "faster and more effective" trials and greater assistance due to the presence of lay experts on ecclesiastical tribunals. They also increase the statute of limitations and officially consider abusing those with "a limited use of reason" and the possession of pedophile pornography as among the gravest of sins, he outlined.
But, while "law is necessary" to combating sexual abuses within the Church, "it is not everything," Fr. Lombardi pointed out.
Change must come about through "commitment to education, the formation of clergy and staff who work in institutions linked to the Church, information and prevention, dialogue with and personal care for the victims," he said, noting that it is a “huge area in which the Church has mobilized itself, as urged for by the Pope, in many countries.
"For its part, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith continues to work to give aid to local bishops in formulating coherent and effective guidelines,” Fr. Lombardi underscored. “The new law is important, but we know well that our commitment to a purer and more evangelical witness must be a long road."