Pope Francis this week announced long-overdue changes to the way the Catholic Churches deals with sexual abuse, primarily the lifting of “pontifical secrecy” in abuse allegations, trials, and decisions under the Church’s canon law.
“Pontifical secrecy” is an old rule of confidentiality that protects sensitive information related to the governance of the Church. For years, offenders used pontifical secrecy to avoid cooperating with authorities and victims.
“Certain jurisdictions would have easily quoted the pontifical secret…to say that they could not, and that they were not authorized to share information with either state authorities or the victims,” explains Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta. “Now that impediment, we might call it that way, has been lifted, and the pontifical secret is no more an excuse.”
Moving forward, the Church will:
- Report crimes when required by law
- Cooperate with law enforcement
- Allow victims to be updated on cases
- Not encourage victims or those who report abuse to remain silent
- Define the age for which pornography is considered child porn as 18 years or under (previously 14)
These changes come nearly a year after Francis hosted a first-of-its-kind summit on child sex abuse, and while they are certainly a step in the right direction, they do not change the way the Vatican holds trials for alleged abusers.
Victims continue to demand that Francis do more to hold bishops accountable for past abuse.
Editor’s note: The damage to the Catholic Church has been incalculable. This should have been done 60 years ago.