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  • Pope Francis attends the weekly general audience at the Vatican, June 19, 2019.

    Pope Francis attends the weekly general audience at the Vatican, June 19, 2019. | Photo: Reuters

Published 17 December 2019
Opinion

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.

Pope Francis on Tuesday 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.

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Advocates for the victims of a sex abuse scandal that has rocked the church for nearly two decades applauded the move as being long overdue but said it had to be applied broadly.

Two documents issued by the pope back practices that have been in place in some countries, particularly the United States, 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,” Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta 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They argued that secrecy in cases of sexual abuse of minors was outdated and some Church officials were hiding behind it instead of cooperating with authorities.

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