Or the Time magazine online story, "The Vatican rethinks laws on abuse."
They were based on remarks made yesterday by Cardinal William Levada, an American who is head of the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. It's the office that Pope Benedict headed before being elected pope.
Both the Times and Time said Cardinal Levada suggested that the Vatican was considering changing its norms governing allegations of sex abuse, particularly with regard to the statute of limitations — or the time limit — within which victims must bring claims — in Church tribunals — against priests. The ultimate sanction the Church can impose is laicization.
But Jesuit Father Federico Lombari, the papal spokesman, told us at a briefing today that those stories misinterpret Cardinal Levada's remarks. This morning before Mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral with the pope, Cardinal Levada told Father Lombardi that he was referring to norms already enacted, not consideration of new ones.
"This morning Cardinal Levada told me that they did not understand correctly, because the changes have already taken place. There are no upcoming changes," Father Lombardi said.
Here's how Time quoted the cardinal: Asked whether the Vatican should consider such changes to canon laws, Levada said, "It's possible. There are some things under consideration that I'm not able to say."
And a few sentences later, the cardinal is quoted: "We found that many of the cases go back over quite a number of years, and [victims] don't feel personally able to come forward until they reach a certain level of maturity. Some canon norms are like statutes of limitations, and if the case warrants ... we've been able to make exceptions." He said that those cases were ones in which "strong measures needed to be taken, even dismissal from the priesthood."
Under current church law, the statute of limitations for prosecuting the crime of clerical sexual abuse of a minor runs out 10 years after the victim reaches his or her 18th birthday.
But in norms for the United States that were confirmed in 2005, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith can extend the time limit indefinitely on a case-by-case basis.
Here's the language of the norm: "If the case would otherwise be barred by prescription (statute of limitations), because sexual abuse of a minor is a grave offense, the bishop ... shall apply to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith for a derogation (waiver) from the prescription, while indicating relevant grave reasons."
Father Lombardi said there are no new changes to the norms in the works at this time. "Further changes are not expected," he said.