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That, too, is the case of the U.S. norms, which were enacted after the abuse scandal exploded in Boston in 2002. But the U.S. norms nevertheless bar credibly accused priests from any public church work if sufficient evidence is found that they abused a minor. Clergy found guilty are barred permanently from public ministry and, in some cases, ousted from the priesthood.

The guidance given to bishops in the letter Monday makes no mention of removing priests but reminds bishops that they are “always able to limit the exercise of the cleric’s ministry until the accusations are clarified.”

The U.S. norms were approved by the Vatican and are church law in the United States. The Vatican said Monday that if other bishops conferences want to make their guidelines binding, too, they must submit them to Rome for review, though it cautioned that they cannot in any way circumvent canon law.

The letter is being issued at a time when the U.S. norms have been put into question after a Philadelphia grand jury earlier this year indicted a high-ranking church official on child endangerment charges for allegedly transferring predator priests. Four co-defendants — two priests, an ex-priest and a former Catholic schoolteacher — are charged with raping children.

The grand jury found “substantial evidence of abuse” committed by at least 37 other priests, who remained in active ministry at the time of the report. Philadelphia’s archbishop, Cardinal Justin Rigali, initially insisted that no archdiocesan priests in ministry had an “admitted or established allegation” against them, but he later suspended two dozen of the 37 priests.

The scandal exposed some of the loopholes in the Vatican-approved U.S. norms that leave it entirely up to bishops to determine the credibility of allegations; the new Vatican instruction confirms that by both reinforcing bishops‘ responsibility and authority and seemingly diminishing the importance of lay review boards in checking their compliance.

Last week, the head of the Philadelphia archdiocese’s lay review board publicly accused Cardinal Rigali and his bishops of having “failed miserably at being open and transparent” because they prescreened which cases the board reviewed and left out crucial information for some priests they did review.

And last week, Ireland’s National Board for Safeguarding Children, a church-appointed independent panel overseeing compliance with Ireland’s guidelines, said it had been prevented from fulfilling its mandate to review diocesan responses to abuse cases by bishops‘ legal concerns about the priests’ privacy.

On Friday, Amnesty International listed the Vatican in its annual report of global human rights abuses, citing revelations of clerical abuse around the world and the “enduring failure” of the church to address the crimes properly.

“Such failures included not removing alleged perpetrators from their posts pending proper investigations, not co-operating with judicial authorities to bring them to justice and not ensuring proper reparation to victims,” Amnesty said in its report.