Vice News details that Pope Francis has issued new rules on reporting sex abuse.
The new rules will come into effect on June 1, and will be re-evaluated after a three-year trial period. Under these rules, Catholic dioceses are required to report incidents of sexual abuse to church authorities. In addition, they are required to report any efforts made by higher-ups to conceal such incidents.
The move marks the Roman Catholic Church’s first worldwide law that requires its officials to address clerical sex abuse — accusations which have dogged the institution throughout its history — and comes shortly after over 300 members of the Catholic clergy in New Jersey were publicly accused of abuse.
“The crimes of sexual abuse offend Our Lord, cause physical, psychological and spiritual damage to the victims and harm the community of the faithful,” the Pope wrote on Thursday.
As The Inqusitr reported, Francis issued a new law on March 26, one requiring all Vatican City officials and church authorities to listen to sexual abuse allegations against clergy members — and to transfer them to authorities. However, this law only applies to those under the Vatican City state jurisdiction.
The new rules do not require that incidences of sexual abuse are reported to law enforcement authorities, per The New York Times. Instead, they provide rules for all local churches on how to report misbehavior — a step up from the current variation in reporting and investigation practices between countries and dioceses.
However, the new rules don’t address what happens to any hypothetical priest who may stand accused of sexual abuse. However, the rules can be applied retroactively, meaning that old cases could be brought back into the public eye. In addition, the rules cover both children and vulnerable adults, including the physically or mentally disabled.
Supporters of the new rules suggest that they would not have been implemented without cooperation from bishops — cooperation which supporters suggest is crucial for the pope to maintain his authority, and to effectively address sexual abuse within the church.
“I desire that this commitment be implemented in a fully ecclesial manner so that it may express the communion that keeps us united, in mutual listening and open to the contributions of those who care deeply about this process of conversion,” Francis said.
He also said that the church should never interfere with civil authorities.
“These norms apply without prejudice to the rights and obligations established in each place by state laws, particularly those concerning any reporting obligations to the competent civil authorities.”
Back in February, the Catholic Church held a global summit addressing sexual abuse. Church leaders gave Catholic dioceses until June 1, 2020, to institute a “public and accessible” reporting method for abuse allegations.