Catholic Culture Overview
Catholic Culture Overview
Catholic World News

Pope releases new Vatican legislation on abuse

March 29, 2019

Pope Francis has signed new legislation setting standards for the handling of sex-abuse complaints in the territory of Vatican City.

The Vatican on March 29 announced the release of three documents: criminal laws for the Vatican city-state, guidelines for the vicariate the covers the two parishes within the Vatican, and a motu proprio applying these rules to members of the Roman Curia and to all members of the Vatican diplomatic corps.

The new rules apply only to the territory of Vatican City, where only a handful of children reside. But the legislation clearly sets high standards for handling abuse complaints. The documents emphasize the rights of victims, require officials to treat all complaints seriously and respond quickly, and commit the Vatican to providing support for victims.

The standards also apply to vulnerable persons who are not legal minors. The legislation defines vulnerable persons as those who are “in a state of infirmity, of physical or mental deficiency, or of deprivation of personal liberty.”

Among other measures, the new rules stipulate:

  • that Vatican prosecutors can proceed with an abuse case even without an official complaint from a victim;
  • that officials serving in the apostolic nunciatures are covered by the law;
  • that Vatican employees will be required to undergo background checks;
  • that the statute of limitations for crimes involving abuse of minors will be 20 years, beginning when the minor reaches the age of 18;
  • that clerics and religious serving in the Vatican must “always be visible to others when they are in the presence of a minor,” cannot cultivate special relationships with minors, and cannot photograph minors with their parents’ consent.

The new regulations come a month after a Vatican “summit meeting” on sexual abuse, which brought together the leaders of all the world’s episcopal conferences. The editorial director of the Vatican’s communications dicastery, Andrea Tornielli, said that the Vatican’s norms now set a standard for proper handling of the matter.

Pope Francis signed all three of the new documents. Although his signature was not required on the legislation governing the Vatican city-state, he evidently chose to add his authority, to underline the importance of the new standards.


For all current news, visit our News home page.

Further information:
Sound Off! supporters weigh in.

All comments are moderated. To lighten our editing burden, only current donors are allowed to Sound Off. If you are a current donor, log in to see the comment form; otherwise please support our work, and Sound Off!

  • Posted by: feedback - Mar. 31, 2019 7:24 AM ET USA

    "The new rules apply only to the territory of Vatican City, where only a handful of children reside." That's being really tough on crime that doesn't exist. But what's the point? This looks to me as a step toward making clerical gay sex okay; as long as the involved individuals are consenting "non vulnerable" adults. Notice that there is not a word about the sacrilegious sin and the crime of abuse of seminarians preparing for ordination to the Priesthood.