Pope Francis has tightened up Vatican criminal law and created clearer regulations on the subject of abuse and depictions of sexual violence, among other things.
“In order to respond adequately to the needs of the Church throughout the world,’’ Pope Francis said on Tuesday, ‘’it appeared evident that the penal discipline promulgated by St John Paul II on Jan. 25, 1983 in the Code of Canon Law needed to be revised.’’
The changes are due to come into effect on December 8.
In the Church’s penal code,Book VI of the Code of Canon Law abuse of minors, for example, is also relocated.
The part dealing with minors is now under the new title “Offences against human freedom, dignity and life,’’ Vatican canon lawyer Markus Graulich explained in an interview with Vatican News.
The articles, known as canons, punish clerics for abuse of minors, for example, but also if they obtain and distribute pornographic images of minors or induce minors to take such images.
For this, the law provides for impeachment, other just punishments or dismissal from the clergy if the gravity of the case suggests it.
The words sexual abuse are not used. Instead, it speaks of an “offence against the sixth commandment,’’ that is the commandment against adultery.
Graulich explained that the commandment is so well defined, for example by the catechism that one can legally work with it.
In 2019, in relation to reports of cases of abuse, one had spoken of sexual acts and thus restricted the scope of the offence.
Afterwards, people complained that they had been abused, but not sexually.dpa