Church changes rules: Priests and religious who know about abuse are obliged to report it

Pope Francis lays down measures that should be adopted to prevent and fight sexual abuse against minors and vulnerable people

Pope Francis has released an apostolic letter outlining the new measures adopted by the Catholic Church to combat abuse of minors
Pope Francis has released an apostolic letter outlining the new measures adopted by the Catholic Church to combat abuse of minors

Priests and religious people of the Catholic church are now obliged to immediately report cases of abuse after Pope Francis issued a new law.

The measures make it clear that no one in the Church is above the law, neither bishops.

The law offers protection to whoever speaks up and victims will be listened to, welcomed and helped.

At a press briefing in the Vatican on Thursday, Archbishop Charles Scicluna, who is also adjunct secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, a body responsible for dealing with clerical sex abuse, said the Pope wanted everyone to speak up whenever there was a problem.

The Catholic church has been hounded by cases of sex abuse by priests and subsequent cover ups by bishops.

Pope Francis has been criticised for not doing enough to clamp down on clerical sex abuse and the new law is a reaction to this.

The new law will come into force on 1 June.

The document was drawn up following a meeting of the presidents of episcopal conferences and supreme moderators of the main religious institutes last February.

It allows all dioceses one year to establish stable and publicly accessible systems to report cases of sexual abuse and their cover up. The law does not introduce canonical penalties but investigations into claims of abuse have to be concluded in 90 days.

Pope Francis has released an apostolic letter, Vos estis lux mundi, laying down the measures.

Scicluna noted that for the first time, the law provided a definition of what constituted a vulnerable person.

“Covering up a crime has never been acceptable. The law empowers communities to file reports even when leadership falls short of what is expected of it,” Scicluna said, adding the law made it clear there is no immunity.

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