AP

Pope demands sex abuse claims be reported in Vatican City

Mar 29, 2019, 8:06 AM
Pope Francis attends an audience with participants of a course on the Internal Forum promoted by th...
Pope Francis attends an audience with participants of a course on the Internal Forum promoted by the Apostolic Penitentiary Court, in the Pope Paul VI hall, at the Vatican, Friday, March 29, 2019. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)
(AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis on Friday issued sweeping new sex abuse legislation for Vatican personnel and Holy See diplomats that requires the immediate reporting of abuse allegations to Vatican prosecutors, a policy shift aimed at being a model for the Catholic Church worldwide.

The mandatory reporting provision, while limited in scope, marks the first time the Vatican has put into law requirements for Catholic officials to report allegations of sex crimes to police or face fines and possible jail time.

Francis also issued child protection guidelines for Vatican City State and its youth seminary, acting after the global sex abuse scandal exploded anew last year and The Associated Press reported that the headquarters of the Catholic Church had no policy to protect children from predator priests.

While the new norms only cover Vatican City State, affiliated institutions and the diplomatic corps, they were still symbolically significant and were welcomed by a former seminarian whose case helped spark the reform.

“I see this as something positive,” Kamil Jarzembowski told the AP.

The law for the first time provides an explicit Vatican definition for “vulnerable people” who are entitled to the same protections as minors under church law. The Vatican amended its canon law covering sex abuse to include “vulnerable adults” several years ago, but never defined it.

According to the new Vatican definition, a vulnerable person is anyone who is sick or suffering from a physical or psychiatric deficiency, isn’t able to exercise personal freedom even on occasion and has a limited capacity to understand or resist the crime.

The issue of whether adult seminarians, religious sisters or other adults who are emotionally or financially dependent on clergy can be considered “vulnerable people” has come to the fore in the wake of the scandal over ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, a once high-ranking American cleric accused of molesting seminarians, and revelations of priests and bishops sexually preying on nuns.

The new law covers all personnel who live and work in the Vatican, the 44-hectare (110-acre) city state in the center of Rome, as well as the Holy See’s vast diplomatic corps in embassies around the world.

The Vatican’s ambassadors have figured in some of the most scandalous cases of sex abuse in recent years, with papal representatives accused of groping, distributing child pornography and sexually abusing minors in their far-flung posts.

The law now requires any Vatican public official who learns of an allegation of abuse to report it to Vatican prosecutors “without delay.” Failure to do so can result in a fine of up to 5,000 euros ($5,615) or, in the case of a Vatican gendarme, up to six months of prison.

The legislation requires that victims be welcomed, listened to and provided with medical, psychological and legal assistance, and sets the statute of limitations at 20 years past the victim’s 18th birthday. They must be kept apprised of the investigation.

Victims and their families are to be protected from any retaliation, answering longstanding problem faced by victims, including Jarzembowski, who reported abuse at the Vatican youth seminary only to be kicked out the following year.

Mimicking some provisions in place in the U.S. church, the provisions require background checks for Vatican staff and volunteers working with minors and calls for safe environment training for all Vatican personnel.

The accused is to be removed from their job pending the investigation, and be allowed to defend themselves.

In a statement accompanying the new law, the Vatican’s editorial director, Andrea Tornielli, said while very few children actually live in the Vatican City State, Francis decided to make the legislation and accompanying guidelines a model.

Last year, AP reported that Vatican City had no policy to protect children or require suspected abuse to be reported to police, even though the Holy See required such policies in Catholic dioceses around the globe and had told the U.N. in 2013 that such a policy was in the works.

The absence of clear-cut policy became evident following revelations that Jarzembowski, then a teenage seminarian in the Vatican’s youth seminary had, in 2012, accused one of the older boys of sexually molesting his roommate.

Nothing came of it. Vatican police, who have jurisdiction over the territory, weren’t called in to investigate. A series of bishops — including Cardinal Angelo Comastri, Francis’ vicar for Rome and the archpriest of St. Peter’s Basilica — said they investigated, but no one ever interviewed the alleged victim.

Jarzembowski was promptly kicked out of the seminary while the accused seminarian was ordained as a priest.

On Friday, Jarzembowski told AP the law was a positive step forward, particularly its explicit recognition that the pre-seminary falls under its jurisdiction.

“Before there was a situation where a group of kids were there, in the Vatican City State, but they were seemingly in a legal limbo,” he said.

He praised the mandatory reporting requirement, noting that all survivor advocacy groups “the first thing that they do is say there must be the obligation to report to public authorities.”

Today’s Top Stories

AP

FILE - A Montana man was sentenced to three years in prison for his role in the Capitol riot. (AP P...
The Associated Press

Montana man gets 3 years in prison for role in Capitol riot

A Montana man will spend three years in federal prison for his role in the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S Capitol.
1 day ago
Debbie, left, and Chet Barnett place flowers at a memorial outside of the Chesapeake, Va., Walmart ...
The Associated Press

Walmart shooter left ‘death note,’ bought gun day of killing

According to authorities in Virginia, the Walmart shooter bought his gun just hours prior to killing six employees.
1 day ago
Dry lakebed...
Kira Hoffelmeyer

Lawsuit looms over tiny fish in drought-stricken West

RENO, Nev. (AP) — Conservationists have notified U.S. wildlife officials that they will sue over delayed decisions related to protections for two rare fish species that are threatened by groundwater pumping in the drought-stricken West. The Center for Biological Diversity sent a formal notice of intent to sue the Fish and Wildlife Service last week […]
3 days ago
Hand-written messages cover the heart attached to the cross to honor a victim of the mass shooting ...
COLLEEN SLEVIN, THOMAS PEIPERT, JESSE BEDAYN and BRITTANY PETERSON

Colorado gay club shooting suspect held without bail

The alleged shooter facing possible hate crime charges in the fatal shooting of five people at a Colorado Springs gay nightclub was ordered held without bail in an initial court appearance Wednesday.
3 days ago
Four Dead University of Idaho...
NICHOLAS K. GERANIOS Associated Press

Coroner: Idaho students were stabbed to death in their beds

Four University of Idaho students who were found dead in a rental house Sunday were stabbed to death in their beds and likely were asleep.
8 days ago
FILE - In this photo provided by the National Park Service is the Abyss Pool hot spring in the sout...
The Associated Press

Foot found in Yellowstone hot pool ID’d as that of LA man

Yellowstone National Park officials say a foot found in July belongs to a 70-year-old man from California.
9 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Happy joyful smiling casual satisfied woman learning and communicates in sign language online using...
Sorenson

The best tools for Deaf and hard-of-hearing workplace success

Here are some of the best resources to make your workplace work better for Deaf and hard-of-hearing employees.
Team supporters celebrating at a tailgate party...
Macey's

8 Delicious Tailgate Foods That Require Zero Prep Work

In a hurry? These 8 tailgate foods take zero prep work, so you can fuel up and get back to what matters most: getting hyped for your favorite
christmas decorations candles in glass jars with fir on a old wooden table...
Western Nut Company

12 Mason Jar Gift Ideas for the 12 Days of Christmas [with recipes!]

There are so many clever mason jar gift ideas to give something thoughtful to your neighbors or friends. Read our 12 ideas to make your own!
wide shot of Bear Lake with a person on a stand up paddle board...

Pack your bags! Extended stays at Bear Lake await you

Work from here! Read our tips to prepare for your extended stay, whether at Bear Lake or somewhere else nearby.
young boy with hearing aid...
Sorenson

Accommodations for students who are deaf and hard of hearing

These different types of accommodations for students who are deaf and hard of hearing can help them succeed in school.
Young woman receiving laser treatment...
Form Derm Spa

How facial plastic surgery and skincare are joining forces

Facial plastic surgery is not only about looking good but about feeling good too. The medical team at Form Spa are trained to help you reach your aesthetic outcomes through surgery and through skincare and dermatology, too.
Pope demands sex abuse claims be reported in Vatican City