In an address to U.S. cardinals and bishops’ conference representatives on April 23, 2002, Pope John Paul II said that sex abuse against children “is by every standard wrong and rightly considered a crime by society; it is also an appalling sin in the eyes of God.”1 Protecting minors and vulnerable adults (hereafter included in the word “minors”) is an essential part of the Church’s mission. The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Japan takes this mission seriously and has been dealing with it in various ways since 2002.2 We have created these guidelines to further advance these steps and intend to fulfill our mission to protect the lives of minors entrusted to the Japanese Church.

1. Purpose and Scope
These guidelines set out policies for promoting efforts at all levels of the Church such as the bishops’ conference, dioceses, and institutes of consecrated and apostolic life to ensure the defense and protection of the rights of minors in Church activities in areas under the jurisdiction of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Japan.3
Through these Guidelines, we will strive to make the Church a safe and secure place free from abuse and violence, and establish and maintain a Church community marked by mutual respect and compassion.
Implementation of these Guidelines must strictly comply with Church law4 as well as Japanese laws and regulations.5 Strict adherence must also be ensured and guaranteed in accord with the relevant Vatican documents6 and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.7
These guidelines apply to all missionary work and pastoral care in the Catholic Church in Japan, including dioceses, societies of apostolic life and seminaries, as well as to individuals such as clergy (bishops, priests, deacons), religious, staff, and volunteers involved in Catholic institutions.8

2. Definition of Terms
Abuse: In these Guidelines, abuse against minors means physical abuse (hitting, kicking, slapping, etc.), sexual abuse as defined below, neglect (confining them indoors, not providing meals, keeping them filthy, etc.), and psychological abuse (verbal threats, neglect, discriminatory treatment among siblings, etc.).9
Sexual abuse: The definition of sexual abuse in these Guidelines is based on Church law10 and Vatican documents.11
Sexual abuse (including sexual exploitation) perpetrated against minors is a crime against the sixth of God’s Ten Commandments.12 Specifically, it is the use of violence, intimidation or abuse of authority to coerce a minor to perform or submit to sexual acts with or without consent. It includes physical contact with sexual overtones, self-exposure, masturbation, the production, publication, possession or distribution of child pornography, recruiting for prostitution, and sexual conversation and proposals using any means of communication. In all such cases if the perpetrator is a priest or religious it is an especially serious crime and is reserved to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.13
Minor: Any person under the age of 18 or deemed equivalent to such persons in law.
Vulnerable adult: Any person over the age of 18 who due to physical or mental incapacity or disability even temporarily lacks the freedom to understand, declare intentions or resist.
Child pornography: Representation regardless of the means or medium used of minors apparently involved in either real or virtual sexual activity, or any representation of the genitals of any minor with an exclusively sexual purpose.

3. Coordinator for the Protection of Minors
Diocesan bishops and superiors of religious and missionary communities must appoint a person responsible for providing a point of contact for the protection of minors. This coordinator for the protection of minors shall address the appropriate implementation of these guidelines to become a community that respects the rights of minors and aims for the eradication of all abuse and exploitation.14
In addition, the coordinator should take special care to prevent abuse and to train people involved in pastoral activities. The coordinator must also sensitively deal with and support those who report abuse and their families.

4. Evaluation and Formation
Vocational discernment and formation for clergy, religious and candidates.

  • Bishops and superiors of religious and missionary communities have a responsibility to “correctly discern a vocation.”15 In order to correctly identify vocations and provide sound training to candidates, priests, and religious ongoing human and spiritual formation must be carried out based on the provisions set out in the apostolic exhortation Pastores Dabo Vobis and the guidelines of the Holy See.16
  • If a priest or religious is dispatched or transferred to another diocese, information such as the person’s background must be fully shared with the bishop of the diocese to which he or she is dispatched or transferred. The same applies to seminarians and novices.
  • Appropriate investigation must precede the appointment of pastoral workers.
  • Pastoral workers must be trained regarding the risk of sexual abuse, abuse and exploitation of minors, and how to identify and prevent those crimes.

Selection and training of staff, helpers, and volunteers in churches and Catholic institutions

  • In the selection and employment of persons involved in pastoral activities, educational institutions, and Catholic-related facilities, their fitness must be confirmed through appropriate investigation.
  • Those involved in pastoral activities, educational institutions, and other Catholic institutions must be trained in the risk of sexual abuse, abuse and exploitation of minors, and how to identify and prevent those crimes.
  • Those involved in pastoral activities, helpers, and volunteers must be aware of precautions and prohibitions when engaged with minors.

5. Raising Awareness

  • In order to protect the human rights and dignity of minors, raise awareness of abuse prevention, and create a safe place, we must implement community education in dioceses and schools.
  • Dioceses, communities of religious, and missionary institutes must work towards the prevention of abuse, especially marking the Day of Prayer and Atonement for Clergy Sex Abuse Victims established by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Japan with Masses and other events before and after it.

6. Matters to be Observed in Pastoral Activities
In pastoral activities involving minors, their protection is of paramount importance. Therefore, pastoral workers must:

  • Treat minors with care and respect;
  • Be good examples to minors;
  • Remain visible to a third party when with a minor;
  • Report all potential or actual dangerous behavior to the coordinator for the protection of minors;17
  • Respect the privacy of minors;
  • Notify parents or guardians in advance about activities and arrangements;
  • Take good care when using phone calls, social networks, etc. to communicate with minors.

In dealing with minors the following are strictly forbidden:

  • Corporal punishment;
  • Favoritism toward certain minors;
  • Placing minors in a situation that could be psychologically or physically dangerous;
  • Behavior that suggests an offensive attitude, inappropriate behavior, or sexual activity;
  • Discrimination against a particular individual or group;
  • Forcing minors to keep secrets;
  • Differentiating within the group, such as giving gifts to specific individuals;
  • Taking photos or videos of minors for personal purposes;
  • Publishing or distributing images that can identify minors on the web, social networks, etc. without the consent of a parent or guardian;18

Pastoral activities shall be carried out in a place appropriate to the age and developmental stage of the minor. Pastoral workers must pay special attention to prevent minors from entering danger and keeping them out of reach of danger.19
Inappropriate behavior or bullying among minors must be dealt with fairly and carefully, even if it does not rise to the level of a crime.

7. Informed Consent by Parents and Guardians20
Parental consent is required for minors to participate in activities. Parents must also be informed of their activities, and the names and contact information of those responsible.
Parental consent is required before taking photos and videos of minors, publishing photos and videos of minors, or contacting minors directly via telephone or social networks.
Consent forms containing important personal information must be kept strictly confidential.21

8. Handling Allegations of Sexual and Other Abuse
All persons involved in the mission of the Church who receive information that a minor has been sexually or otherwise abused22 must report it to the person in charge either directly23 or through some designated person24 immediately.25 In addition, if the victim or person who is believed to have been victimized is under the age of 18, the welfare office or child guidance center established by the municipality or prefecture must be notified in accordance with the law.26

  • Anyone who makes a complaint of sexual or other abuse and their families have the right to be accepted and protected. While ensuring appropriate spiritual support and the protection of their dignity and privacy and the privacy of their personal information, the head of the Church community or a delegate listens to their appeals, while ensuring that they receive psychological and spiritual care.
  • It is desirable that support persons27 be lay Catholics who have knowledge, experience, and understanding of abuse and responses to victims. The support person provides information about the progress of the complaint to the complainant and advises them on how to receive appropriate assistance.
  • Those who complain of having suffered abuse must be provided with useful legal information and medical and social support, including emergency care and psychological support.
  • If the accused is a cleric or a member of a religious or missionary institute, the person who receives the complaint must report it immediately to the proper superior. Superiors are obliged to report the charge to the bishop of the diocese where the abuse occurred.
  • In cases of abuse of minors, the diocesan bishop shall ask the diocesan response committee or the person in charge of the religious or missionary institute to make a full report.
  • Unless it is clear that the complaint is not based on facts, the superior must on their own authority take necessary measures, such as restricting the activities of the accused, in order to protect and prevent further harm to the accuser until the evidence in the case is gathered.
  • In responding to an accusation:
    • Obtain the testimony of the accuser immediately and in an appropriate manner;
    • Introduce to the accuser appropriate organizations that provide emotional and physical support;
    • Explain the rights guaranteed to the accuser and how to exercise them, including the fact that they can testify or answer questions either in person or through their agents;
    • Inform the accuser of the outcome of each stage of the proceedings if the accuser so desires;
    • Recommend that accusers use the support of civil and canon law experts;
    • Protect accusers or their families from intimidation or retaliation;
    • Protect the personal information, dignity and privacy of those who complain of abuse;
    • Exercise care for the mental health of all concerned.
  • Procedures such as preliminary investigations and Church trials will be governed by the Vademecum: On certain points of procedure in treating cases of sexual abuse of minors committed by clerics of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.28
  • To protect the dignity of the accused, the presumption of innocence must be guaranteed. Unless there is a serious reason contrary to this, the accused must be informed of the charges and accusations in order to present a defense. Recommendation must be made to the accused to receive the assistance of civil and canon law professionals, and psychological and spiritual support must also be provided.
  • If the investigation determines that a crime is likely to have been committed, the superior of the religious or missionary institute must report it to the bishop of the diocese.29 Diocesan bishops and superiors of religious and missionary institutes must submit a report to the president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Japan and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. If the accused is found not guilty, the one with the right to make that judgement must formally instruct that the complaint be dismissed. All documentation related to the investigation and the reasons for the conclusion must be securely preserved.
  • If there is reason to believe that abuse will be repeated, appropriate precautions must be taken immediately.

9. Compliance Audit
The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Japan shall confirm compliance with these guidelines in each diocese and publish the results of the audit.

Eradicating sex abuse and sexual violence in the Church depends on a strong sense of responsibility and determination on the part of the entire Church, including bishops, religious superiors, and laity.
We must dedicate ourselves to making visible the vocation of the Church, building a community that follows Christ and His way on behalf of the weak, maintaining our commitment to be close to and cherish those who suffer.
At the same time, it is urgent that we change the closed attitude that tries to solve problems within the organization alone. Therefore, it is necessary to create a system that publishes appropriate information, listens to the voices of many people both inside and outside the Church, asks for their cooperation, and reflects it in the Church’s decisions.
We hope that these guidelines that include these recommendations and our commitment will contribute to the creation of a Church and society in Japan that will “protect all life.”

*These guideline were approved by the 2021 Plenary meeting of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Japan on February 17, 2021, with participation by representatives of the major superiors of men and women.