A new law has been announced by Pope Francis stated that henceforth, bishops would be held accountable for any sexual abuses or cover-ups reported in their jurisdictions.
This pronouncement has now made it compulsory for sexual abuse cases to be reported as well as allows anyone to complain directly to the Vatican should it be necessary.
The papal decree, which deals with abuse of children and adults, has made it obligatory for every Catholic diocese in the world to create a simple and accessible reporting system.
It also encourages local churches to involve lay experts in investigations. The decree, which was first reported by Reuters in April, is the second such papal provision to be made since a summit was held on abuse by senior Church bishops at the Vatican back in February.
It creates time limits for local investigations and the Vatican to respond to them and also allows for retroactive reporting. The decree also says bishops with conflicts of interest should recuse themselves from investigations and that it is possible that they are held accountable for abuse of power in sexual relations with adults.
The 19-article decree called “Vos Estis Lux Mundi” (You Are the Light of the World), states 16 to 18, as the age of adulthood in cases of sexual abuse.
The decree also covers possession of child pornography as well as the fact that those who report such crime cannot be ordered to remain silent by the local Church officials. It also stated that senior bishops should ensure that they prevent documents from being destroyed by subordinates if needed. The decree also stated that clerics follow the local law on whether they are to report alleged sexual abuse to civil authorities.