Pope expands sex abuse law, reaffirms adults can be victims


VATICAN CITY: Pope Francis on Saturday updated a 2019 church law aimed at holding senior churchmen accountable for covering up cases of sex abuse, expanding it to cover lay Catholic leaders and reaffirming that vulnerable adults can also be victims of abuse when they are unable to consent.
Francis reaffirmed and made permanent the temporary provisions of the 2019 law that were passed in a moment of crisis for the Vatican and Catholic hierarchy. The new rules conform to other changes in the Catholic Church’s handling of abuse that have been issued since then. Most significantly, they are expanded to cover leaders of Vatican-approved associations headed by lay leaders, not just clerics. That is a response to the many cases that have come to light in recent years of lay leaders abusing their authority to sexually exploit people under their spiritual care or authority.
They also reaffirm thateven adults can be victims of predator priests, such as nuns or seminarians who are dependent on their bishops or superiors. Church law previously considered that only adults who “habitually” lack the use of reason can be considered victims alongside minors.
The new law makes clear that adults can be rendered vulnerable to abuse even occasionally, as situations present themselves. That is significant given resistance in the Vatican to expanding its abuse rules to cover adults.


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