Pope Francis has issued sweeping new sex abuse legislation for Vatican personnel and diplomats that now requires immediate reporting of abuse allegations to Vatican prosecutors.
Beyond the cases involving minors, the law also applies to “vulnerable adults” with mental and physical challenges or those who cannot defend themselves against a crime.
This is the first time the Vatican has made it a requirement for officials of the Catholic Church to report sex abuse claims.
“The Holy Father hopes that, thanks also to these norms, which pertain to Vatican city-state and the Roman curia, everyone may develop the awareness that the church must always be ever increasingly a safe home for children and vulnerable persons,” said Allessandro Gisotti, from the Holy See press office.
For advocates happy to hear the changes, it is a step in the right direction, but there is a catch — for now.
The policy applies only to Vatican City, but it is aimed at being a model for the church worldwide.
“Well. For the entire church there are already good norms on sexual abuse and on prevention of sexual abuse. The new aspect of this norms is that they are for Vatican City state,” said canon law professor Ulrich Rode.
Additionally, the new law now allows for cases to be filed within 20 years, a change from the previous limit
“A new aspect in the motu proprio is until which time after the crime has been committed it can still be prosecuted, now it’s 20 years. Which in the case of minors start running from the 18th birthday. And there is the obligation to denounce these crimes, obligation for all public officials in Vatican City state.”
If the allegations are not immediately reported, they can be fined or face jail time.
The pope also created a counseling service for victims of sexual abuse so they can receive psychological and medical help from “qualified personnel.”
Meanwhile, today the pope made another appeal, this time to the youth.
The Pope also said in a document released today that young adults should try to help priests at risk for sexually abusing minors. He is calling on young people to help priests rediscover their “vocation” and their “mission.”
With the changes slowly coming from the Vatican, advocates and victims worldwide are hoping full transparency and change does come soon as this is something they have been appealing and praying for for decades.