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Pope Francis overhauls laws on sexual abuse, confidentiality

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
July 11th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

As if in recognition of the United Nations efforts to protect children from being sexually exploited by priests with the Catholic Church, Pope Francis has overhauled laws that govern the Vatican City state on sexual violence, prostitution and child pornography. The legislation covers clergy and lay people. Conviction in connection with any of the aforementioned crimes now carry up to 12 years in prison.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The revamping of the new laws comes as the Vatican prepares for a grilling by a U.N. committee on its efforts to protect children and prevent priests from sexually abusing them.

The Vatican has signed and ratified the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1990. It's only until now, 23 years later that the Vatican has updated its legislation to reflect some of the treaty's core provisions.

The bulk of the Vatican's penal code is based on the 1889 Italian code. Many consider the code outdated. The laws passed this week, which range from listing crimes against humanity to the illicit appropriation of nuclear material has finally brought the Vatican up to date with the many U.N. conventions it has signed over the years.

Others were necessary to comply with international norms to fight money-laundering, part of the Vatican's more recent push toward financial transparency.

Others were updated for the Vatican's legal system. The new law cancels out lifetime prison sentences instead imposes maximum sentences of 30-35 years in prison.

Another important update was far stricter punishments for those who leak confidential information. Penalties for violations of the new law are stiff: Anyone who reveals or receives confidential information or documentation risks six months to two years in prison and a $2,500 fine. The penalty goes up to eight years in prison if the material concerns the "fundamental interests" of the Holy See or its diplomatic relations.

Prompting this new legislation was the incident involving former papal butler Paolo Gabriele, who served then-Pope Benedict XVI. Gabriele was tried and convicted by a Vatican court of stealing Benedict's personal papers and giving them to an Italian journalist.

Journalist Gianluigi Nuzzi published a blockbuster book on the petty turf wars, bureaucratic dysfunction and allegations of corruption and homosexual liaisons in the highest levels of Catholic Church governance.

Benedict eventually pardoned Gabriele, but his crime devastated the Vatican, shattering the confidentiality that typically governs correspondence with the pope.

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