On Friday, Pope Francis issued a new requirement mandating that Vatican officials report suspected sexual abuse to the Vatican judicial authorities. If they fail to do so, they will face fines or jail time. Francis says that this cooperation is absolutely necessary “in the activities of prevention.”
This comes after the Pope admitted last month the frequent sexual abuse of nuns. Reports date back to 2005, with allegations that nuns were forced into sex slavery and that some were even forced to abort fetuses conceived with bishops. Reports of child sex abuse have also dated back since the 1950’s. Vatican spokesperson, Alessandro Gisotti, said in a statement that “the church must always be ever increasingly a safe home for children and vulnerable persons.”
The mandate requires that the church must welcome and listen to survivors; legal and medical assistance must be provided to survivors; the statute of limitations is set to 20 years past the survivor’s 18th birthday; survivors must be kept updated on the investigation on their case; and there must be protection for survivors from any possible retaliation. The new requirement will also require background checks for all Vatican staff members working with children, safe environment training, bans on corporal punishment for children, and requires parental consent for any photographs taken of children.
This is the first time the Vatican has ever enacted any rules or legislation mandating the protection of children and survivors.
Media Resources: Washington Post 3/29/19; Feminist Newswire 2/6/19; AP News 3/29/19