Pope Francis, Vicariate of Vatican City, Guidelines for the Protection of Minors and Vulnerable Persons, 26 March 2019.
Vicariate of Vatican City
GUIDELINES FOR THE PROTECTION OF CHILDREN AND VULNERABLE PERSONS26 March 2019
The Holy Father Pope Francis
- recalling the Chirograph of St. John Paul II On the Spiritual Care in the Vatican City, of 14 January 1991;
- recalling Law No. CCXCVII, On the Protection of Minors and Vulnerable Persons, of 26 March 2019;
- bearing in mind the particular nature of the pastoral activities carried out in the Vatican City State;
- desiring to introduce specific measures, within the sphere of the Vicariate of Vatican City, for the care and protection of minors and vulnerable persons;
has adopted the following
Ensuring the safety of minors and vulnerable people is an integral part of the Church’s mission. The Vicariate of Vatican City, to which is entrusted the pastoral care of the faithful residing in the State, as well as in the Pontifical Villas of Castel Gandolfo, participates fully in this mission, firmly rooted in the conviction that each person has a unique value, being created in the image and likeness of God. In fact, “the effective protection of minors and a commitment to ensure their human and spiritual development, in keeping with the dignity of the human person, are integral parts of the Gospel message that the Church and all members of the faithful are called to spread throughout the world” (Chirograph for the institution of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, of 22 March 2014).
A. Scope of Application
Canon law and the legislation of Vatican City State regarding the protection of minors and vulnerable persons must be scrupulously respected.
The policies and procedures contained in these guidelines are aimed at establishing and maintaining an ecclesial community that is respectful and mindful of the rights and the needs of minors and vulnerable persons, as well as at being vigilant to the risks of exploitation, sexual abuse and ill-treatment in the context of the activities carried out within the sphere of the Vicariate of Vatican City. They are addressed to:
- the canons, the coadjutors and the clergy of St. Peter’s Basilica;
- the parish priests and the coadjutors of St. Peter’s and St. Ann’s parishes in the Vatican;
- the chaplains and spiritual assistants who have received a pastoral assignment from the Vicar General;
- the priests, deacons and educators of the Minor Seminary of St. Pius X;
- the members of Institutes of consecrated life and Societies of apostolic life who reside permanently in the Vatican City State;
- all those who, for any reason, serve, individually or collectively, within the ecclesial community of the Vicariate of the Vatican City.
For the purposes of these guidelines, “vulnerable persons” are to be considered equivalent to “minors”.
B. The Contact Person for the protection of minors
The Vicar General shall appoint a Contact Person for the protection of minors who shall coordinate and verify the implementation of the present guidelines so that, within the Vicariate, there is a community respectful and mindful of the rights and the needs of minors, as well as being vigilant in preventing any form of violence or abuse. The Contact Person shall coordinate the prevention and training activities of pastoral workers and shall take particular care to welcome and support those who claim to have suffered exploitation, sexual abuse or ill-treatment, as well as their families.
The Contact Person avails himself of the professional assistance of the Support Service managed by the Department for Health and Hygiene of the Governorate and of the Labour Office of the Apostolic See.
C. Pastoral workers
1. In the selection of pastoral workers, the suitability of the candidates to interact with minors must be ascertained through an adequate investigation, as well as by verifying the absence of any previous judicial charges.
2. Pastoral workers must receive adequate training on the risks of exploitation, sexual abuse and ill-treatment of minors, as well as on the ways to identify and to prevent those offences. They are be required to participate in the training programmes organized by the Labour Office of the Apostolic See in coordination with the Support Service.
3. Occasional collaborators are to be informed about the conduct to be observed when interacting with minors, as well as about forbidden conduct.
D. Pastoral activities
1. In pastoral activities involving minors, their protection must be a priority. Therefore, in the course of their activities, pastoral workers must:
- show prudence and respect when interacting with minors;
- be positive role models;
- when they are in the presence of minors, be always visible to others;
- report to the Contact Person any potentially dangerous behavior;
- respect the private sphere of the minors;
- inform the parents or guardians of any activities proposed as well as of their practical arrangements;
- exercise due prudence when communicating with minors, including by telephone or on social networks.
2. It is strictly forbidden for pastoral workers to:
- inflict corporal punishments of any kind;
- establish a preferential relationship with a specific minor;
- place a minor in a situation potentially dangerous to his or her mental or physical safety;
- address a minor in an offensive manner or engage in inappropriate or sexually suggestive behavior;
- discriminate against a minor or a group of minors;
- ask a minor to keep a secret;
- give gifts to a minor distinguishing him from the rest of the group;
- photograph or film a minor without the written consent of his parents or guardians;
- publish or disseminate, including via the web or social networks, images portraying a minor in a recognizable way without the consent of parents or guardians.
3. Pastoral activities shall be carried out on premises suitable for the age and stage of development of minors. As far as possible, pastoral workers must take particular care to ensure that minors do not enter or remain in places hidden from sight or out of their control.
4. Any inappropriate behaviour or bullying that may occur among minors, even if it does not constitute a crime, must be promptly addressed in a balanced, prudent and sensitive manner, informing immediately the parents or guardians.
E. Informed consent of parents or guardians
1. It is indispensable to obtain the written consent of the parents or guardians for the participation of minors in pastoral activities. The parents and guardians shall be informed of the proposed activities, as well as of the names and contact information of the persons responsible.
2. The written consent of parents or guardians is required for photographing or filming minors, for publishing any photographs or videos that portray them, as well as for making direct contact with minors, even by telephone or through social networks.
3. The documents of consent containing sensitive personal data shall be kept on record carefully and diligently.
F. Treatment of reports of alleged exploitation, sexual abuse or ill-treatment
1. Those who affirm that they have suffered exploitation, sexual abuse or ill-treatment in an ecclesial context, as well as their families, have the right to be welcomed, listened to and supported. The Vicar General, directly or through the Contact Person for the protection of minors, shall listen to them, making certain that they receive adequate spiritual assistance and protecting their good name and privacy, as well as the confidentiality of their personal data. The Vicar General may entrust the spiritual accompaniment of the offended persons and of their relatives to a qualified priest.
2. To the offended persons shall also be offered medical and social assistance, including emergency therapeutic and psychological assistance, as well as useful information of a legal nature, including through the Support Service managed by the Department for Health and Hygiene.
3. Without prejudice to the sacramental seal, pastoral workers, assistants and volunteers who have knowledge of a minor being a victim of exploitation, sexual abuse or ill-treatment, shall inform the Vicar General directly or through the Contact Person for the protection of minors.
4. The Vicar General or the Contact Person shall ask the author of the report to formalize it in writing, for the purpose also of transmitting it to the Promoter of Justice of the Tribunal of Vatican City State. The author of the report shall be encouraged to present the complaint directly to the Promoter of Justice of the Tribunal of Vatican City State.
5. If the alleged wrongdoer is a cleric or a member of an Institute of consecrated life or of a Society of apostolic life, the Vicar General, having received the report, shall communicate it without delay to the Ordinary or Major Superior of the person reported.
6. Whenever the report is not manifestly unfounded, the Vicar General shall inform the Promoter of Justice of the Tribunal of Vatican City State and shall remove the presumed wrongdoer from the pastoral activities of the Vicariate.
7. In the event that there is a written and justified objection from the offended person or from his legal representatives, or the offended person refuses to formalize the report in writing, the Vicar General shall not inform the Promoter of Justice unless, having heard the Contact Person for the protection of minors, he deems it necessary to protect the offended person or other minors from danger.
8. In the cases that fall within his competence, and without prejudice to the investigations conducted by civil authorities, the Vicar General carries out, personally or through a priest expert in procedural matters and prudent in discernment, the preliminary investigation foreseen by can. 1717 CIC. The investigation is conducted as a priority.
9. When required by the circumstances, the competent Ordinary may delegate the competence to conduct the preliminary investigation to the Vicar General.
10. In the course of the proceedings, the criminal conduct, the personal data and the age of the offended persons, the damage caused and the possible connection with the sacramental forum shall be verified. Documents, evidence and testimonies from the various areas and spaces where the suspected person has operated can be collected. The Vicar General may also avail himself of any statements, testimonies, documents and expert opinions collected in the course of the investigations by civil authorities, as well as any judgments or decisions regarding the subject matter of the investigation by the judicial organs of the State. To that end, the Vicar General may suspend the proceedings pending the conclusion of the investigation by civil authorities.
11. In the course of the proceedings, care shall be taken to:
a) seek the healing of every person involved;
b) obtain without delay and in an adequate manner the deposition of the offended person;
c) refer the offended person to the Support Service managed by the Department for Health and Hygiene;
d) explain to the offended person his rights and the ways to exercise them, including the possibility of providing, directly or through an intermediary, evidence and of asking to be heard;
e) to inform the offended person, if he requests, of the results of the various phases of the proceedings;
f) encourage the offended person to avail himself of the assistance of civil and canonical legal advisors;
g) safeguard the offended person and his family from any intimidation or retaliation;
h) protect the good name and the privacy of the offended person, as well as the confidentiality of his personal data.
12. The presumption of innocence shall be always guaranteed, protecting the reputation of the accused. Unless there are serious reasons to the contrary, the accused shall be informed promptly of the charges against him, in order to enable him to defend himself. He shall be invited to avail himself of the assistance of civil and canonical legal advisors. He shall also be offered spiritual and psychological assistance.
13. Where there are reasons to believe that the offences may be repeated, appropriate precautionary measures shall be adopted without delay.
14. If the investigation concludes that it was likely that the crime was committed, the Vicar General shall submit the case to the competent Dicastery. Otherwise, the Vicar General shall issue a motivated decree dismissing the case, keeping in his archive the necessary documentation corroborating the actions taken and the reasons for the decision taken.
15. Anyone found guilty of committing one of the crimes referred to in Article 1 of Law No. CCXCVII, On the Protection of Minors and Vulnerable Persons, of 26 March 2019, shall be removed from his responsibilities; he shall be offered adequate support for his psychological and spiritual rehabilitation, also in view of his social reintegration.
I dispose that these guidelines be observed ad experimentum for a period of three years.
Given in Rome, at St. Peter's, 26 March of the year 2019, the seventh of the Pontificate.
Pope Francis, Vicariate of Vatican City, Guidelines for the Protection of Minors and Vulnerable Persons, 26 March 2019. English accessed 14 July 2019: http://www.vatican.va/resources/resources_protezioneminori-lineeguida_20190326_en.html