The Vatican published a total of three documents on Friday signed by Pope Francis – a decree, a law and a catalog of directives. Among other things, Francis states that the suspected cases of abuse must be immediately reported to the Vatican from the summer onward. In addition, convicted perpetrators should be removed from their posts, it said.
The measures were after the historic anti-abuse conference in the Vatican at the end of February, they are expected to come into force on June 1st. Even if the regulations only concern the Papal State, Francis sends a signal – after all, the Vatican is the center of power of the Church. Because of serious abuse scandals in several countries, Pope Francis is under pressure to follow his clear words and deeds.
In the future, the Vatican will have to immediately report the suspicion of cases of abuse – with the restriction that the confessional secrecy should not be violated. If a suspected case is not reported immediately, sanctions are imminent. In addition, persons who are being investigated for suspected abuse should be kept away from children and adolescents. On top of that, if a suspicion of sexual abuse or the mistreatment of children is to be determined without a criminal complaint.
The pontiff wants to use the new rules to make it known that “at all” in the Roman Curia and the Vatican, the awareness of the duty to report abuse and to cooperate with the competent authorities. The Pope made it clear that victims of abuse and their families were entitled to spiritual, medical, psychological and legal help.
For example, in the catalog of directives, priests and other Vatican church staff who deal with children are “strictly prohibited” from having a special relationship with a single minor or approaching a child in an offensive manner. Also, a child may not be asked to keep a secret; at the same time a clergyman may not give a child.
According to the rules, Vatican employees are only allowed to photograph and film children and publish this image material on the Internet, if they have the express consent of their parents. It is warranted to be always visible to others in the presence of minors and to respect their privacy. A representative for the protection of minors should ensure that these guidelines are also followed. He should also be the contact person for the victims of abuse.
The rules now published apply to persons who have Vatican citizenship or reside in the Papal States. The smallest state in the world has around 800 inhabitants – over 300 of them are diplomats working for the Vatican around the world. Minors, on the other hand, are barely below. But the law says it can also be applied to children who regularly visit the Vatican, such as the 35 boys between the ages of 9 and 13, who are part of the choir of the Sistine Chapel.