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Pope updates church laws, criminalizing sexual abuse by priest!

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Pope Francis has revised the church law and made changes regarding sexual abuse.

The new updates have been made to explicitly criminalize the sexual abuse of adults conducted by priests, who abuse their authority. Other than priest, the laypeople who hold church office can also be sanctioned for similar sex crimes.

The changes came after scandals about clerical sex abuse and financial corruption surfaced in last few years. As a result, there were campaigns that demanded change and justice.

These updates were released on Tuesday, and the changes have been made after 14 years. According to the reports, the new provisions were contained in the revised criminal law section of the Vatican’s Code of Canon Law. It is the in-house legal system that covers the 1.3 billion-strong Catholic Church.

As per the new penal code, the Vatican City has broadened the categories of persons to be punished for conduction sexual abuse including laypeople and nuns. Though the inclusion of priests in the law is a big step, the updated law haven’t exactly meet the demand of the campaigners, which was to provide for the automatic defrocking of abusive priests.

In a decree instituting the revisions, Pope Francis stated that charity and discipline are intimately related, hence the proper remedy for immoral behavior “is not only exhortations or suggestions.”

Besides, the revised code re-classifies the sexual abuse of minors by clergy among “crimes against the life, dignity and freedom of man,” rather than violations of the “special obligations” of clergy, as stated in the 1983 code.

According to Associated Press, the most significant changes are contained in two articles, 1395 and 1398. Their aim is to address major shortcomings in the church’s way handling sexual abuse cases. The law has recognized that adults can also be victimized by priests who abuse their authority over them. Moreover, laypeople in church offices, such as school principals or parish economists, can be punished for abusing minors as well as adults.

The Vatican City has also penalized “grooming” of minors or vulnerable adults by priests to get the involved with pornography.

The discretion that allowed the bishops and religious superiors to ignore or cover up abuse have also been removed. With the updated law, now they can be held responsible for ‘omissions and negligence in failing to properly investigate and sanction errant priests’.

June 2021
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