77% of Cases Sent to Discipline Office Invloves Sexual Abuse Of Children Says Vatican Official

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Catholic child abuse

Monsignor John Joseph Kennedy, who is the Vatican official responsible for overseeing the Catholic Church’s response to abuse says that 77 percent of the cases he receives are about child sexual abuse. 

Speaking on the sidelines of a safeguarding conference organized by the Italian Bishops Conference (CEI) in Rome last month he talked about the work carried out by the Disciplinary office of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), which he leads. 

LifeSite News reports: According to Reuters, Kennedy stated that around 77 percent of cases he receives in the Disciplinary office involve abuse of children. 

The CDF is now divided into two sections, the Doctrinal and the Disciplinary sections. Via the February 2022 motu proprio Fidem servare, Pope Francis consolidated the operations of the CDF into the two different departments, giving each a secretary to lead operations. 

The Disciplinary Section attends to “crimes reserved to the Congregation and dealt with by it through the jurisdiction of the Supreme Apostolic Tribunal established there,” including things such as false mysticism, abuse of the sacraments, and “grave” crimes such as sexual abuse. 

The Disciplinary Section is also directed to provide “appropriate formation initiatives” to be offered to local bishops and canon law practitioners “in order to foster a correct understanding and application of the canonical norms relating to its own sphere of competence.” 

Falling under the Disciplinary Section’s purview are all “Cardinal Fathers, Patriarchs, Legates of the Apostolic See, Bishops, as well as other individuals in accordance with canonical provisions.”

Ordained in Dublin in 1993, Kennedy has been an official in the CDF since 2003, and has led the CDF’s disciplinary office since 2017, before being appointed by the pontiff to be the Disciplinary section’s secretary in April 2022. 

As such, he has been in charge of dealing with reports of clerical sex abuse from across the world, and told the Associated Press in 2019 that the case load was four times as large as it had been in 2009, with 1,000 cases of abuse reported to the CDF in 2019 alone. 

“We’re effectively seeing a tsunami of cases at the moment, particularly from countries where we never heard from,” Kennedy said in 2019, of the numbers of sex abuse reports. 

During a rare public speech that same year, Kennedy stated that “I can honestly tell you that, when reading cases involving sexual abuse by clerics, you never get used to it, and you can feel your heart and soul hurting.” 

“There are times when I am pouring over cases that I want to get up and scream, that I want to pack up my things and leave the office and not come back,” he said. 

Niamh Harris
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