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Pope changes church law to demand sex abuse reports

AFPVATICAN CITY (AFP-Jiji) — Pope Francis on Thursday passed a landmark new measure to oblige those who know about sex abuse in the Catholic Church to report it to their superiors, in a move which could bring countless new cases to light.

Every diocese in the world will now be obliged to have a system for the reporting of abuse, under a new law published by the Vatican following a global clerical paedophilia scandal.

But the requirement will not apply to secrets revealed to priests in the confessional.

It is time to learn from the “bitter lessons of the past,” Francis said in the text of the legal decree, which comes into effect on June 1.

It follows a series of clerical assault cases in countries ranging from Australia to Chile, Germany and the United States.

The “Motu Proprio,” a legal document issued under the pope’s personal authority, declares that anyone who has knowledge of abuse, or suspects it, is “obliged to report [it] promptly” to the Church, using “easily accessible systems.”

Under the new measure, every diocese around the world is obliged by June 2020 to create a system for the reporting of sexual abuse by clerics, the use of child pornography and cover-ups of abuse.

The law could see the Vatican inundated with reports of abuse or cover-ups, as it applies retroactively, meaning those who know about old cases are obliged to flag them up as well.

The impact “likely will be felt most intensely outside the West, since places such as the U.S., Canada and some parts of Western Europe [though, ironically, not the pope’s backyard in Italy], already have fairly robust reporting systems,” said Vatican expert John Allen, on the online religious newspaper Crux Now.Speech

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