May 27, 2019
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New Vatican rules force clergy to report sexual abuse

Vatican City, May 9 (efe-epa).- Pope Francis has established new rules that force members of the clergy to report any alleged sexual abuse or cover up, the Vatican said on Thursday.

The new procedures are collected in the "Vos estis lux mundi" (You are the light of the world) document published Thursday and requires all the dioceses of the world to create a system accessible to anyone who wants make a report by June 2020, as well as the total protection and assistance for individuals reporting misconduct and abuse.

This new law is one of the "concrete proposals" the pope promised he would develop to eradicate the endemic abuse within the Catholic Church following a historic meeting on the Protection of Minors held at the Vatican in February.

The new rules will apply to all crimes that include: "Forcing someone, by violence or threat or through abuse of authority, to perform or submit to sexual acts, performing sexual acts with a minor or a vulnerable person, the production, exhibition, possession or distribution, including by electronic means, of child pornography, as well as by the recruitment of or inducement of a minor or a vulnerable person to participate in pornographic exhibitions."

It also criminalizes the "actions or omissions intended to interfere with or avoid civil investigations or canonical investigations, whether administrative or penal, against a cleric."

The new law does not include new crimes or penalties, but establishes the procedures to be followed, Vatican sources added.

Another main point is the protection of reporting individuals and victims who, according to the new law, cannot be subject to "prejudice, retaliation or discrimination".

"An obligation to keep silent may not be imposed on any person with regard to the contents of his or her report," which includes contacting members of the press, the Vatican continued.

New rules also demand ecclesiastic authorities ensure victims and those filing reports of abuse are treated with dignity and respect and outline a code of conduct which includes that they should be: "Welcomed, listened to and supported, including through provision of specific services, offered spiritual assistance, offered medical assistance, including therapeutic and psychological assistance, as required by the specific case."

In response to the demands bishops of all countries had requested a protocol is outlined on how to deal with a report on abuse.

Reports must be immediately transmitted to the bishop or superior of the congregation or order of the diocese where the events occurred, although other bishops can also be contacted.

In a case concerning a bishop or a cardinal, the report will be sent either to the metropolitan bishop or to the oldest bishop in the country and corresponding ministry of the Holy See and the Secretary of State will have to be informed urgently.

Unless the initial report is considered to be unfounded, the metropolitan bishop would request the competent dicastery to initiate the investigation.

Another noteworthy point is that there is an allotted timeframe within which to manage any report.

"The Dicastery shall proceed without delay, and in any case within thirty days from the receipt of the first report by the Pontifical Representative or the request for the assignment by the Metropolitan, providing the appropriate instructions on how to proceed in the specific case."

In addition, from the beginning to the close of the preliminary investigations, the diocese can not spend more than 90 days on the investigation, although the term may be increased for justified reasons.

The new norms are a step forward in the prevention of abuse within the church.

"In order that these phenomena, in all their forms, never happen again, a continuous and profound conversion of hearts is needed, attested by concrete and effective actions that involve everyone in the Church," Pope Francis said. EFE-EPA

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