Vatican cracks down on paedophile priests

In an unexpected move, the Vatican also codified the “attempted ordination of a woman” to the priesthood as one of the most serious crimes against Church law.

The changes, the first in nine years, affect Church procedures for defrocking abusive priests. They make some legal procedures which were so far allowed under exceptional circumstances, the global norms to confront the crisis.

“This gives a signal that we are very, very serious in our commitment to promote safe environments and to offer an adequate response to abuse,” Monsignor Charles Scicluna, a Vatican doctrinal official who helped revise the norms, told a news conference. “If more changes are needed, they will be made.”

Under the revisions, the statute of limitations for sexual abuse cases was increased to 20 years after the victim’s 18th birthday from 10 years under the old rules, meaning victims will be able to file charges until they are 38 years old.

This is significant because many people who were abused by priests as children do not find the courage or legal and moral support to come forward until they are well into adulthood.

Spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said the statute of limitations could be extended even further in some cases.

The changes are an update to a document known as a Motu Proprio (Latin for “of his own accord”) issued by the late Pope John Paul in 2001 to deal with various grave crimes against Church law.

While the changes involve canon (Church) law, Lombardi said existing Vatican guidance to bishops that they should report sexual abusers to civil authorities remained in effect.
Sexual abuse by a priest of a mentally handicapped will be treated as if the handicapped person were a minor and could lead to dismissal from priesthood.

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