In Significant Move, Pope Defines the Term 'Vulnerable Adults'

As part of new law requiring Vatican personnel, Holy See diplomats report abuse allegations
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Mar 29, 2019 8:35 AM CDT
Pope's New Sex-Abuse Laws Mark a First
Pope Francis attends an audience with participants of a course on the Internal Forum promoted by the Apostolic Penitentiary Court, in the Pope Paul VI hall, at the Vatican, Friday, March 29, 2019.   (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

Pope Francis on Friday issued sweeping new sex abuse legislation for Vatican personnel and Holy See diplomats that requires the immediate reporting of abuse allegations to Vatican prosecutors, a policy shift aimed at being a model for the Catholic Church worldwide. The mandatory reporting provision, while limited in scope, marks the first time the Vatican has put into law requirements for Catholic officials to report allegations of sex crimes to police or face fines and possible jail time. While the new norms only cover Vatican City State, affiliated institutions, and the Holy See's vast diplomatic corps in embassies around the world, they are still symbolically significant, reports the AP.

The law for the first time provides an explicit Vatican definition for "vulnerable people" who are entitled to the same protections as minors under church law; the Vatican amended its canon law covering sex abuse to include "vulnerable adults" several years ago, but never defined it. According to the new Vatican definition, a vulnerable person is anyone who is sick or suffering from a physical or psychiatric deficiency, isn't able to exercise personal freedom even on occasion, and has a limited capacity to understand or resist the crime. The law now requires any Vatican public official who learns of an allegation of abuse to report it to Vatican prosecutors "without delay." Failure to do so can result in a fine of up to $5,615 or, in the case of a Vatican gendarme, up to six months of prison. The AP has much more on the legislation here.

(More Pope Francis stories.)

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