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Vatican personnel and Vatican City diplomats must now immediately report allegations of sexual abuse to authorities “without delay,” thanks a new law issued by Pope Francis on Friday. If they don’t, the could be fined up to 5,000 euros or be jailed for up to six months, the Washington Post reported.
It’s the first time the Vatican has demanded that Roman Catholic Church officials report sex abuse or face punishment. And while the law does apply to cases of child abuse — even those that are not related to sexual abuse — it also covers people the Vatican deems “vulnerable adults,” or individuals with illnesses, mental or physical challenges, or inability to defend themselves.
However, the law only covers Vatican City State, a county within Rome, and Vatican diplomats working abroad. It does not apply to the inner workings of Catholic dioceses scattered through the rest of the world — though the Vatican said it does hope it will serve as a message to the rest of its vast holdings.
With this rule, “Everyone might develop in their awareness that the Church must always be ever increasingly a safe home for children and vulnerable persons,” Vatican spokesman Alessandro Gisotti told the New York Times in a statement.
The Vatican has not required all of its officials to report abuse because it fears endangering accused clergy who live in places where Christians are persecuted, the Associated Press reported. That’s not a problem within the monarchical Vatican City, where the authorities are arms of the Catholic Church.
Last month, Francis held a meeting of bishops from around the world to confront the clergy sex abuse crisis. But many abuse survivors and advocates were disappointed with the meeting, after Francis failed to issue a universal law expelling abusive priests.
Cover: Pope Francis Leads The Celebration Of The Sacrament Of Penance at St. Peter's Basilica on March 29, 2019 in Vatican City, Vatican. (Photo by Alessandra Benedetti - Corbis/Getty Images)