In his new Motu Proprio, Vos estis lux mundi (“You are the light of the world”), our Holy Father, Pope Francis, once again displays his deep pastoral concern that the evil scourge of sexual abuse must be dealt with swiftly and seriously, and shows that he has listened intently to the voices of his people around the world — not just bishops and priests, but, importantly and appropriately, the laity, including especially victim-survivors and their families.

Among the document highlights are: the Motu Proprio establishes and codifies procedures that all the Church must follow in responding to sexual abuse—not just of minors, but also of vulnerable adults, as well as cases of sexual abuse through intimidation and coercion by those in positions of authority. It calls for the creation of easily accessible ways for allegations of abuse to be reported, establishes a system for reporting and dealing with allegations of abuse against cardinals, bishops, patriarchs, and heads of religious institutes, and holds accountable those who “cover-up” or fail to adequately respond to allegations of abuse. It requires reporting to and compliance with civil authorities, establishes “whistle-blower” protections for those who come forward, and protects the rights of all persons involved, including the accuser and the accused

In short, Vos estis lux mundi is another sign of the Holy Father’s desire to institute reform, promote healing, and insure justice. It is a much-needed and tremendously important step forward for the Church universal. While much of what the document calls for is already being done here in this country, the Archdiocese of New York, together with the USCCB and other dioceses across the United States, will now take steps to implement Vos estis lux mundi, to continue and advance the work already begun with the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, and carried out for the past 17 years