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Vatican Has New Law on Sex Abuse Complaints

For first time, a system is in place to investigate bishops, other higher-ups
By Newser Editors,  Newser Staff
Posted May 9, 2019 10:30 AM CDT
Pope Francis talks to reporters on his flight back to Rome on Tuesday.   (Maurizio Brambatti/Pool Photo via AP)

(Newser) – Pope Francis issued new rules Thursday on how the church should handle sexual abuse allegations. Some key points of the decree, called "You Are the Light of the World," which takes effect June 1:

  • A first: For the first time, priests and nuns are required to report abuse and cover-ups to their superiors, reports the Washington Post. Each diocese in the world has a year to put into place a system for handling such complaints. What's more, these complaints can be retroactive, reports the AP.
  • Big change: The rules for the first time put in place a system for bishops, along with higher-ups such as archbishops and cardinals, to be investigated as well. This part is seen as "significant," per the National Catholic Reporter. If a bishop is accused, a higher-ranking "metropolitan bishop" will investigate with the Vatican's approval. If that higher-ranking bishop is the one accused, another bishop will be chosen to investigate.
  • Police: The rules don't require church officials to report complaints to police, though the Vatican's top sex-crimes investigator said Thursday it "would be a good thing" to do so, reports the New York Times. The church is leery of putting into place a universal rule on this, partly because it fears allegations alone would lead to the killing of priests in some parts of the world.
  • The criticism: Victims and advocates may be disappointed by parts of the decree, including that lack of a requirement to go to police. Also, the rules don't deal with punishments for abuse or cover-ups, only the reporting procedure itself. And whistleblower protections for those who make reports aren't spelled out.
(Read more Vatican stories.)

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