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Ecclesiastics are obliged to report abuse allegations and punish failure to report with dismissal, fines or jail.
Pope Francis condemned the sexual abuse of children within the Vatican and in its diplomatic missions, imposing strict, new legislation Friday to ensure perpetrators are dealt with quickly and efficiently.
Ecclesiastical superiors and employees are obliged to report abuse allegations; punish failure to report with dismissal, fines or jail; and offer assistance to victims and families, the Papal Seat announcement showed.
There are also provisions to protect vulnerable adults.
Those convicted of abuse against vulnerable members of society will be “removed from office,” per the new legislation, although there is a statute of limitation for crimes 20 years from the day victims turn 18.
It is the first time a unified and detailed policy for the protection of children has been compiled for the Vatican and its embassies and universities outside the city state.
The law sets up procedures for reporting suspected abuse, imposes more screening of prospective employees, and sets strict guidelines for adult interaction with children and the use of social media.
The Church’s credibility has been badly tarnished in much of the world by abuse scandals in Ireland, Chile, Australia, France, the United States, Poland, Germany and elsewhere, in which it has paid billions of dollars in damages to victims and been forced to close parishes.
“Laws that make even one child safer should be applauded,” said Anne Barrett Doyle of the U.S.-based abuse tracking group BishopAccountability.org.
“While the action is no-risk and limited in scope, it is constructive. It’s a baby step in the right direction,” she said, calling for the pope to undertake “bold, broad reforms” by changing universal Church law.