New Vatican law criminalises abuse of adults, even by laity

The new provisions were contained in the revised criminal law section of the Vatican’s Code of Canon Law

Pope Francis has changed church law to explicitly criminalise the sexual abuse of adults by priests who abuse their authority and to say that laypeople who hold church office can be sanctioned for similar sex crimes.

The new provisions, released on June 1 after 14 years of study, were contained in the revised criminal law section of the Vatican’s Code of Canon Law, the in-house legal system that covers the 1.3-billion strong Catholic Church.

The most significant changes are contained in two articles, 1395 and 1398, which aim to address major problems and shortcomings in the church’s handling of sexual abuse.

The law recognises that adults, too, can be victimised by priests who abuse their authority, and said that laypeople in church offices can be punished for abusing minors as well as adults.

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