Pope Francis Takes Bold Step to Combat Sexual Abuse, Extends Church Law to Include Lay Leaders

Pope Francis has revised a 2019 church law that dealt with cases of sexual abuse committed by clergy members and extended it to hold accountable lay leaders who work in Vatican-approved religious organizations. Lay leaders are non-clergy individuals who the church officially employs.

The original norms were established by Pope Francis in a letter called Vos estis lux mundi in 2019 and were initially enforced for a four-year term. This update has extended and strengthened the rules to ensure accountability for a wider range of individuals within the Catholic Church.

Bold Step of the Pope in Fighting Against Sexual Abuse in Churches

Pope Francis has recently made the 2019 church law governing clerical sexual abuse a permanent policy, effective from April 30, with minor modifications. According to CNN, The Catholic Church has been grappling with sex abuse scandals in different countries for decades. The updated law reflects the Pope’s commitment to taking “concrete measures” to address the issue.

The changes to the law include extending accountability to lay leaders of Vatican-approved associations who were previously not covered by the law. Another amendment relates to the definition of abuse victims, which has been broadened to include “vulnerable adults,” and minors, and individuals with an imperfect use of reason. The purpose, as mentioned above, only said “minors and vulnerable persons.”

The Vatican has announced that members of the Catholic Church are now obligated to report instances of violence against religious women by clergy members and cases of harassment involving adult seminarians or novices. This is part of the revised law governing clerical sexual abuse that Pope Francis made permanent.

However, BishopAccountability.org, which documents abuses within the Catholic Church, has expressed disappointment with the revised law. According to Interaksyon, it needs to include more extensive revamping required to address the issue and is instead self-policing packaged as accountability. Additionally, BishopAccountability.org has raised concerns that bishops will remain in charge of investigating allegations against their fellow bishops.

This update comes just a month after the Roman Catholic religious order’s Jesuits acknowledged credible accusations of sexual, psychological, and spiritual abuse against one of its most prominent members.

Also Read: Portuguese Bishops Unveil Measures to End Church Sexual Abuse as Pope Urges Prayers for Victims 

The Recent Case of a Jesuit who Sexually Abused About 25 People

In the article in MSN, recently updated provisions have been announced after allegations of sexual, psychological, and spiritual abuse were made against one of the Jesuits’ most prominent members of the Roman Catholic religious order, Father Marko Ivan Rupnik. About 25 people had made the highly credible accusations, mostly former nuns, who claim to have been subjected to various forms of abuse by Rupnik, either when he was a spiritual director of a community of nuns in Slovenia about 30 years ago, or after he moved to Rome to pursue his career as an artist. These allegations have shaken the worldwide order, of which the Pope is a member. Rupnik has not yet made any public statement about the accusations.

Related Article: Priest Indicted of Inviting Two Nuns to Take Part in a ‘Holy Trinity’ Threesome