Pope Francis denounced the culture of abuse in the Catholic Church in a 19-article decree “Vos Estis Lux Mundi,” published Thursday.
Bishops attempting to make sexual advances or to help cover one up will be held accountable for abuse, Pope Francis announced Thursday.
According to the papal decree, any religious personnel privy to the incident must report it to their superiors and allow formal complaints to be made to the Vatican if requested.
"The crimes of sexual abuse offend Our Lord, cause physical, psychological and spiritual damage to the victims and harm the community of the faithful," the Pope writes in the letter.
Tackling sexual abuses that have battered the Catholic Church’s reputation has been a major challenge for Francis since his 2013 election, with victims demanding a crackdown on bishops at the diocese level accused of concealing or mismanaging cases.
The papal change in Church law, covering abuse of children and adults alike, also obliges every diocese worldwide to set up simple, accessible reporting systems within a year and spurs local churches to involve lay experts in investigations.
The 19-article decree, called “Vos Estis Lux Mundi” (You Are the Light of the World), raises to 18 from 16 the age of adulthood in cases of sexual abuse. It also covers possession of child pornography.
Three forms of sexual abuse were outlined in the landmark decision:
According to the Associated Press, as requiring religious to report "is procedural and not criminal in nature, it can be applied retroactively, meaning priests and nuns are now required to report even old cases of sexual wrongdoing and cover-ups — and enjoy whistleblower protections for doing so."