The review will focus on two key U.S. documents: the "Essential Norms for Diocesan/Eparchial; Policies Dealing with Allegations of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Priests, Deacons, or Other Personnel" and the "Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People." Both were adopted last June during the U.S. bishops' meeting.
A mixed commission, comprised of representatives of the Holy See and of the U.S. bishops' conference, will review and revise those norms.
The members representing the dicasteries of the Holy See are Cardinal Darío Castrillón Hoyos, prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy; Archbishop Julian Herranz, president of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts; Archbishop Tarcisio Bertone, secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith; and Archbishop Francesco Monterisi, secretary of the Congregation for Bishops.
The members representing the U.S. episcopal conference are Cardinal Francis Eugene George, archbishop of Chicago; Archbishop William Levada of San Francisco; Bishop Thomas Doran of Rockford; and Bishop Edward Lori of Bridgeport.
In a letter dated Oct. 14 to Bishop Wilton Gregory, president of the U.S. conference, Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, said the current norms "can be the source of confusion and ambiguity."
A key area of concern for the Vatican-U.S. commission will be to ensure that fundamental rights under Church law are protected by the disciplinary provisions against those accused of sexual abuse of minors.
Another question for the commission is linked to terminology, in particular, the definition of "sexual abuse."
Finally, the commission will seek to harmonize the norms document and the charter with the Code of Canon Law and a 2001 letter published on the Pope's own initiative, "Sacramentorum Sanctitatis Tutela."