The Reform of Canon Law and the Abuse Crisis

Francis’s Reform of Canon Law and the Sexual Abuse Crisis

November 2, 2021



This conversation examined a major reform of the portions of canon law that deal with sexual abuse and other crimes committed by clergy and lay ministers. The panel discussed the possible benefits of a broader understanding of sexual abuse, in particular by recognizing that victim-survivors can be adults as well as minors and by criminalizing “grooming” behaviors, as well as the limits of canon law for addressing sexual abuse.



Fr. John Beal, J.C.D., is the Stephan Kuttner Distinguished Professor of Canon Law at Catholic University.

Sr. Helen Costigane, Ph.D., J.C.D., is Programme Director for the MA in Theology at St. Mary’s University-London, a member of the Society of the Holy Child Jesus, and a canon lawyer.

Jennifer Haselberger, Ph.D., J.C.L., is former Chancellor for Canonical Affairs in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, a position she held until resigning in April of 2013 in protest of the Archdiocese’s handling of accusations of clergy sexual abuse.

Patrick Hornbeck, Ph.D., is professor and former chair of theology at Fordham University, where he is also Special Faculty Advisor to the Provost for Strategic Planning and a J.D. student in Fordham Law School.