Pope Francis’ New Law Mandates All Sex Abuse Claims Must be Reported to the Vatican Immediately

Non-compliance may lead to prison time

Pope Francis has instituted sex abuse legislation applicable to all Vatican personnel and diplomats of the Holy See. The all-encompassing guidelines require all allegations against the church be reported immediately to Vatican prosecutors. This policy shift is designed to be a model for every country in the world where the Catholic Church has its footprint.

The compulsory reporting is a first for the Vatican. The Pope has also issued various child protection guidelines for the Vatican City state and the attached youth seminary. Francis was prodded to do so after the Catholic Church was rocked by sex abuse scandals reported from all over the world in 2018. The Vatican at that time had no policy whatsoever to protect the children and vulnerable people from the claws of predator priests. The new law offers an unambiguous definition for who constitutes “vulnerable people.” It states a susceptible individual could be any person who suffers from a psychiatric or physical deficiency, or illness, and is unable to enjoy personal freedoms. The person also has a limited capacity to resist or comprehend the crime. This is the first time the Vatican has mandated that vulnerable individuals are entitled to equal protection as provided to minors as per church law.

The new law will apply to all personnel who work and live inside Vatican territory. The Holy See occupies a massive 110-acre area in downtown Rome and is a city-state. The Vatican has its network of embassies all over the globe. The ambassadors sent by the Vatican have found themselves entangled in scandalous abuse cases, with multiple papal representatives being accused of child pornography distribution and groping in the far corners of the world.

The law also requires that any Vatican public official learning about any sexual abuse allegations must immediately forward it to Vatican prosecutors. A fine of up to 5,000 euros awaits them if they fail to do so. The official may also be looking at six months prison time. The other parts of the legislation state all victims be welcomed, heard and given legal, medical, and psychological assistance. The law sets the statute of limitations at 20 years after the 18th birthday of the victim. The victim and family members also to be protected against any retaliation.