Pope Francis updates Catholic Church rules on handling sexual abuse to include lay leaders | UK News
The pope updated church rules for dealing with sexual abuse, broadening its scope to include lay Catholic leaders and specifying that minors and adults can be victims.
It follows a historic decree in 2019 which required all priests and members of religious orders to report any suspicion of abuse. It also holds bishops directly responsible for any abuses they themselves commit or conceal.
The provisions were initially introduced on a temporary basis, but on Saturday the Vatican said they would become final from April 30 and include additional elements aimed at strengthening the fight against abuse within the Church.
Abuse scandals have shredded the Vatican’s reputation over the past decade, and Pope Francis adopted a series of measures aimed at empowering the hierarchy of the institution.
But he himself has come under scrutiny in 2018 after the global church sex abuse scandal made headlines again, and was even accused of knowing about some allegations and helping to cover them up.
Speaking in 2019, he pledged to confront the “destructive evil” of child sexual abuse within the Catholic Church.
But critics say the results have been mixed and have accused Francis of being reluctant to defrock abusive prelates.
New allegations of sexual abuse
Just a month ago, the Roman Catholic religious order of the Jesuits said the accusations of sexual, psychological and spiritual abuse against one of its most prominent members were “highly credible”.
About 25 people, mostly former nuns, have accused Father Marko Ivan Rupnik, 69, a well-known religious artist, of various forms of abuse, either when he was spiritual director of a community of nuns in his native Slovenia some 30 years ago, or after moving to Rome to pursue his career as an artist.
Rupnik has not spoken publicly about the charges.
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While the original rules covered sexual acts aimed at “minors and vulnerable persons”, the new version provides a broader definition of victims, referring to crimes committed “with a minor or with a person who habitually has a use imperfect of reason or with a vulnerable middle finger”.
The Vatican said members of the Church have an obligation to report cases of violence against nuns by clerics, as well as cases of harassment of adult seminarians or novices.