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Safeguarding Efforts from 2001 - present


On 30 April 2001, St. Pope John Paul II issued the motu proprio Sacramentorum sanctitatis tutela to guide the Church’s efforts to protect children and young people from sexual abuse.  The Holy Father wrote that the Commandments “demand that the Church itself, in her pastoral solicitude, intervene to avert dangers of violation, so as to provide for the salvation of souls, which must always be the supreme law in the Church” (SST, Introduction).  



Over the following fifteen years, Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI became known around the world as leaders in efforts to protect all minors and vulnerable adults from abuse.  See, for example: 

In May 2010, Benedict XVI released a comprehensive update of Sacramentorum sanctitatis tutela, the Normae de gravioribus delictis, reserved to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.


The following year, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith sent the Circular Letter to assist episcopal conferences in developing guidelines for dealing with cases of sexual abuses of minors perpetrated by clerics (May 2011).  It stated:



Among the important responsibilities of the Diocesan Bishop in his task of assuring the common good of the faithful and, especially, the protection of children and of the young, is the duty he has to give an appropriate response to the cases of sexual abuse of minors by clerics in his diocese. Such a response entails the development of procedures suitable for assisting the victims of such abuse, and also for educating the ecclesial community concerning the protection of minors. A response will also make provision for the implementation of the appropriate canon law, and, at the same time, allow for the requirements of civil law.



Since that time Bishops’ Conferences and Conferences of Major Religious Superiors around the world have responded by adopting Guidelines for the protection of minors and vulnerable adults.



Pope Francis has continued the work begun by his predecessors, including the Circular Letter concerning the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors to the Presidents of Episcopal Conferences and Superiors of Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life (2 February 2015).  Our Holy Father emphasized:



Every effort must also be made to ensure that the provisions of the Circular Letter of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith dated 3 May 2011 are fully implemented. This document was issued to assist Episcopal Conferences in drawing up guidelines for handling cases of sexual abuse of minors by clerics. It is likewise important that Episcopal Conferences establish a practical means for periodically reviewing their norms and verifying that they are being observed.



The mission entrusted to the Commission for the Protection of Minors is to assist local Churches in these efforts:


I believe the Commission can be a new, important and effective means for helping me to encourage and advance the commitment of the Church at every level – Episcopal Conferences, Dioceses, Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, and others – to take whatever steps are necessary to ensure the protection of minors and vulnerable adults, and to respond to their needs with fairness and mercy.



The Holy Father has indicated in many ways that "the protection of minors is of paramount importance”:

Our efforts to fulfill this mission are ongoing, and the links on this page will continue to be updated:

  • Day of Prayer in local Churches around the world for all victims/survivors of sexual abuse.  On 30 June 2015, Pope Francis wrote to all Bishops’ Conferences and asked that they implement this initiative and choose the most suitable moment for their dioceses.
  • Education courses for Church leadership on the protection of minors and vulnerable adults. Pope Francis has encouraged the Commission to promote a culture of safeguarding at all levels in the Church and much has been done:

    • Courses for Church leadership: in February 2015, the Holy Father approved the Commission’s request that Church authorities be reminded of the importance of responding directly to victims and survivors who approach them. In order to fulfill the Holy Father’s mission for the Commission to help promote local responsibility, Commission members are actively in contact with numerous Bishops Conferences, and members of the Commission have presented to Religious Conferences and Congregations on safeguarding minors.
    • Courses with Vatican offices: working with the Holy Father’s collaborators in the Roman Curia is also an important part of the Commission’s mission.  Members have been invited to give workshops on the protection of minors to the dicasteries of the Holy See and for the training of diplomatic personnel.  To date, Members have spoken to Pontifical Ecclesiastic Academy, the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Apostolic Life, and the Congregation for Clergy.
    • Courses for safeguarding and protection officers: Commission members have met with Bishops and child protection authorities in: Mexico, San Antonio, Zambia, Philippines, Austria, Pacific Islands, New Zealand, Scotland, Poland, Central America (in Costa Rica), United States National Safe Environment (SECs) and Victims Assistance Coordinators (VACs).
  • Accountability of Church leadership for handling complaints of the sexual abuse of minors and vulnerable adults. In June 2016 Pope Francis issued the motu proprio As a Loving Mother, after receiving advice from our Commission and the Council of Cardinals. The Commission Members had spoken to the Holy Father of the importance of this issue to Catholics today and of the need for a clear process for cases in which bishops are accused of negligence in the exercise of their responsibilities.


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