New Vatican law criminalizes sexual abuse by priests and Church officials
A policeman wearing a protective mask stands guard in the Vatican’s St. Peter’s Square and its main basilica on March 11, 2020, a day after they were closed to tourists as part of a wider crackdown aimed at stemming the epidemic of coronavirus.
Andreas Solaro | AFP | Getty Images
Pope Francis changed Church law to explicitly criminalize the sexual abuse of adults by priests who abuse their authority and to say that lay people who hold office in the church can be punished for similar sex crimes .
The new provisions, released Tuesday after 14 years of study, were in the revised criminal law section of the Vatican Code of Canon Law, the domestic legal system that covers the 1.3 billion-strong Catholic Church.
The most significant changes are contained in two articles, 1395 and 1398, which aim to address the major issues and gaps in the management of sexual abuse by the church. The law recognizes that adults, too, can be victims of priests who abuse their authority, and says lay people in church offices can be punished for abusing minors as well as adults.