Pope’s Recent Directives Represent a Step Forward
By Bishop David J. Malloy
In recent years the Catholic Church has been shamed by the revelations of the sexual abuse of minors by members of the clergy and even by bishops. 
The pain and sorrow of those allegations has been heightened by stories of failures of leadership among certain bishops in dealing with those sinful criminal acts.
Since last July, when the news broke of offenses committed by former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, there has been righteous anger and outcry, especially among the lay faithful. 
Having been told in 2002, when the abuse story first broke, that the matter was being addressed, the renewed publicity has caused many to ask, “What now? What actions will be taken? What reforms need to be made?”
The bishops of the United States met last November in their annual fall meeting with the agenda of discussing and possibly approving actions and norms that would strengthen our response to the sexual abuse of children. The bishops’ attention was particularly directed toward the sins and failures of bishops themselves. 
As was publicly reported, the Vatican instructed the bishops not to take that vote at that time and to wait for directives from Rome.
Last week, Pope Francis issued the promised document (Moto Proprio Vos estis lux mundi) that represents a significant response to the problem of the sexual abuse of children. It applies a series of directives to the whole Church to ensure that there is a consistent response to allegations and that safeguards are in place so that allegations cannot be buried or covered up.
It is worth noting that the document in many ways echoes the steps already taken by the Church in the United States since 2002. Those include the commitment to provide spiritual and emotional care for victims, compliance with applicable civil laws for reporting the sexual abuse of minors, the right of individuals to report such crimes as well as the guarantee of a prompt and objective investigation.
One issue specifically addressed by the new document is what happens when an allegation is made against a diocesan bishop. The document specifies that such allegations are to be directed to the metropolitan Archbishop in an ecclesiastical province. 
In the case of the State of Illinois the metropolitan is Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago. Should an allegation be received against the metropolitan himself, it would be directed to the longest serving diocesan bishop in the province. 
The allegation must then be referred to the Holy See. A response designating the metropolitan or other bishop to investigate the allegation must be issued by the Vatican within 30 days. The investigation is to be carried out and forwarded to the competent Vatican dicastery (office) which will take the appropriate action.
One issue that has been much discussed has been the role of lay participation in the oversight and resolution of such allegations. 
The document issued by the Holy Father makes clear that the metropolitan bishop or senior bishop may indeed seek the help of qualified lay faithful when investigating such allegations. I welcome this inclusion and expect that it will be an important topic of conversation at the bishops’ upcoming meeting next month.
Taken as a whole, the directives in this document are a significant step forward for the Church universal for the protection of young people and the assurance of transparency in dealing with allegations
The horror of the sexual abuse of minors is a complicated problem with historical roots in the failures of faith and morals that have affected the Church’s clergy. The solution will not be simple or accomplished by the implementation of a single document. 
Nevertheless, these directives are a necessary and welcome step to address sin and failures 
in the Church as all of us together, laity, religious, deacons, priests and bishops, continue to seek the holiness to which the Lord calls us.