Pope Francis has issued the most sweeping revision to Catholic Church law in four decades, toughening regulations for clerics who abuse minors and vulnerable adults, commit fraud or ordain women.
The revision, which has been in the works since 2009, involves all of section six of the Church's Code of Canon Law, a seven-book code of about 1,750 articles.
It is the most extensive revision since the current code was approved by Pope John Paul in 1983.
Pope Francis has ordered a sweeping revision of the Church’s Canon Law, toughening up regulations on abuse which now include lay people who commit offences while in office. @ctrlamb reports https://t.co/lJJJYGtFpI #CatholicChurch— The Tablet (@The_Tablet) June 1, 2021
The pope reminded bishops that they were responsible for following the letter of the law and that one aim of the revisions was to "reduce the number of cases in which the imposition of a penalty was left to the discretion of authorities."
The purpose of the revision, wrote Francis in introducing the changes, is "restoration of justice, the reform of the offender, and the repair of scandal."
Sexual abuse of minors
The new section, involving about 80 articles concerning crime and punishment, incorporates some changes made to Church law since 1983 by the popes and introduces new categories.
Monsignor Filippo Iannone, head of the Vatican department that oversaw the project, said there had been "a climate of excessive slack in the interpretation of penal law," where mercy was sometimes put before justice.
In a major rewrite of Vatican law, Pope Francis broadened the Roman Catholic Church’s penal code by introducing tougher regulations against clerics who commit financial fraud, sexual abuse, or attempt to ordain women.https://t.co/YnQ51nc2d2— Ethan Biando (@ethanb822) June 2, 2021
Sexual abuse of minors was put under a new section titled "Offences Against Human Life, Dignity and Liberty," instead of the previously vague "Crimes Against Special Obligations."
That section was expanded to include new crimes such as "grooming" minors or vulnerable adults for sexual abuse and possessing child pornography.
One aim of the revision, wrote Francis, was to reduce the number of penalties left to the discretion of judges, especially in the most serious cases.
"The new text introduces various modifications to the law in force and sanctions some new criminal offences, which respond to the increasingly widespread need in the various communities to see justice and order reestablished that the crime has shattered," he wrote.
The changes will take effect in December.
Despite recent measures to root out abuse by priests and increase transparency, some victims say the Vatican still has not gone far enough to protect children even in the West, where intense media coverage of paedophile priests has led to greater scrutiny of church practices.
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