Pope Francis criminalizes sexual abuse of adults by Catholic priests and Church officials



With the Apostolic Constitution Pascite Gregem Dei (Tend the Flock of God), presented today, June 1, 2021, Pope Francis reformed Book VI of the Code of Canon Law on Criminal Sanctions in the Church. The change will take effect on December 8, 2021.

The Pontiff of the Catholic Church amended the law of the Catholic Church to explicitly criminalize the sexual abuse of adults by priests who abuse their authority and to say that lay people who hold ecclesiastical office can also be punished for crimes. similar sex crimes.

The secretary of the Pontifical Council for the Interpretation of Legal Texts, Monsignor Juan Ignacio Arrieta Ochoa de Chinchetru, underlined that the text now contains an adequate specification of the penal rules which did not exist previously, to give a precise and certain direction to those who should apply them. Are introduced in the Code “some penalties which had already been outlined by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and other dicasteries, suggestions on what was not until now a crime, the obligation to denounce the crimes in the case of specific persons. “

The document, he said, pays particular attention “to crimes of a heritage nature with an obligation to repair, repair the damage and restore”. “In the field of minors, fundamental was the displacement of this crime from the special obligations of clerics, in the category in which are also the crime of homicide, the crime of abortion and crimes against life, liberty and dignity. of the person.

The most significant changes are contained in two articles, 1395 and 1398, which aim to fill the gaps in the church‘s handling of sexual abuse. The law recognizes that adults, and not just children, can be victims of priests who abuse their authority. The reviews also say that lay people in church positions, such as school principals or ward economists, can be punished for mistreating minors as well as adults.

“A cleric living in concubinage, except in the case mentioned in can. 1394, and a cleric who continues in some other outward sin against the scandalous sixth commandment of the Decalogue, should be punished with suspension. To this, other penalties may be gradually added if after a warning he persists in the offense until he can eventually be removed from the clerical state.

A clergyman who has offended in another way the sixth commandment of the Decalogue, if the offense was committed in public, will be punished with just penalties, not excluding the dismissal of the clerical state if the case justifies it.

A cleric who by force, threats or abuse of his authority violates the sixth commandment of the Decalogue or forces someone to perform or submit to sexual acts must be punished.

The Vatican has also criminalized priests who “treat” minors or vulnerable adults to force them to engage in pornography. This update marks the first time that Church law has officially recognized as a criminal act the method used by sexual predators to establish relationships with victims they target for sexual exploitation.

“A cleric is punished by dismissal and other just penalties, without excluding, where appropriate, the dismissal of the clerical state if he:

  1. commits an infraction of the sixth commandment of the Decalogue with a minor or with a person who habitually has an imperfect use of reason or with a person to whom the law recognizes equal protection.
  2. prepares or incites a minor or a person who habitually has an imperfect use of reason or to whom the law recognizes equal protection to expose himself for pornographic purposes or to participate in pornographic exhibitions, real or simulated.
  3. immorally acquires, preserves, exhibits or distributes, in any manner and by any technology whatsoever, pornographic images of minors or of persons habitually having an imperfect use of reason.




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