Wed, Dec 18, 2019 - Page 1 News List

Pope abolishes ‘pontifical secrecy’ for sex abuse cases

‘EPOCHAL DECISION’:The pope also raised the age that images can be considered child pornography from 14 or under to 18 or under

Reuters, VATICAN CITY

Pope Francis yesterday announced sweeping changes to the way the Roman Catholic Church deals with cases of sexual abuse of minors, abolishing the rule of “pontifical secrecy” that previously covered them.

Two documents issued by the pope back practices that have been in place in some countries, particularly the US, such as reporting suspicion of sex abuse to civil authorities where required by law.

The documents, which put the practices into universal Church law, also forbid imposing an obligation of silence on those who report sex abuse or allege they have been a victim.

“This is an epochal decision,” Maltese Archbishop Charles Scicluna and the Vatican’s most experienced sex abuse investigator, told Vatican Radio.

The lifting of “pontifical secrecy” in sex abuse investigations was a key demand by Church leaders, including Scicluna and German Cardinal Reinhard Marx, at a summit on sexual abuse held at the Vatican in February.

They argued that secrecy in cases of sexual abuse of minors was outdated and some Church officials were hiding behind it instead of cooperating with authorities.

Scicluna said the new provisions open up ways to communicate with victims and cooperate with the state.

“Certain jurisdictions would have easily quoted the pontifical secret ... to say that they could not, and that they were not, authorized to share information with either state authorities or the victims,” Scicluna said.

“Now that impediment, we might call it that way, has been lifted, and the pontifical secret is no more an excuse,” he said.

One of the documents also raises to 18 or under from 14 or under the age that pictures of individuals can be considered child pornography “for purposes of sexual gratification, by whatever means or using whatever technology.”

Last year, a Vatican court sentenced a Catholic priest to five years in jail for possessing child pornography while he was based in the US as a diplomat.

Yesterday, the pope also accepted the resignation of Archbishop Luigi Ventura, the Holy See’s ambassador to France, who has been accused of sexual molestation.

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