Pope Francis on Friday issued a new sex abuse legislation for Vatican personnel and Holy See diplomats. As per the guidelines, any sexual abuse incident should be immediately reported to Vatican prosecutors. This is the latest in a series of reform measures that the Pope has initiated. The policy shift intends to transform the Vatican as a model for the Catholic Church worldwide, agencies reported.
The mandatory reporting provision of the legislation marks the first time the Vatican has put into law requirements for Catholic officials to report allegations of sex crimes to police or face fines and possible jail time. Pope Francis also issued child protection guidelines for Vatican City State and its youth seminary, acting after the global sex abuse scandal exploded last year. It was widely reported than that reported that the headquarters of the Catholic Church had no policy to protect children from predator priests.
The law for the first time provides an explicit Vatican definition for ‘vulnerable people’ who are entitled to the same protections as minors under church law. The Vatican amended its canon law covering sex abuse to include ‘vulnerable adults’ several years ago, but never defined it.
According to the new Vatican definition, a vulnerable person is anyone who is sick or suffering from a physical or psychiatric deficiency, isn’t able to exercise personal freedom even on occasion and has a limited capacity to understand or resist the crime.
The new law covers all personnel who live and work in the Vatican, the 44-hectare city state in the center of Rome, as well as the Holy See’s vast diplomatic corps in embassies around the world.
The Vatican’s ambassadors have figured in some of the most scandalous cases of abuse in recent years, with papal representatives accused of groping, distributing child pornography and sexually abusing minors in their remote posts.