"The crimes of sexual abuse offend Our Lord, cause physical, psychological and spiritual damage to the victims and harm the community of the faithful," lamented Pope Francis in his "Motu proprio", made public on Thursday. The text strengthens legislation on sexual abuse in the church.
The Sovereign Pontiff thus gives the Catholic Church stricter legislation. From now on, the priests and religious will be legally obliged to report any suspicion of sexual assault or harassment, as well as any coverage of such facts by the hierarchy of the Church.
To this end, the text notably noted the creation, by June 2020, of one or more devices in each diocese to allow the presentation of reports "on cases of sexual assault, harassment or dissemination of child pornography. Crimes which, for the Pope, "betray the trust of the faithful".
In an introductory statement, Andrea Tornielli, Vatican Communications Officer, states that "if until today, in a certain sense, this obligation only concerned the individual conscience, it becomes from now on a universally established legal precept ".
In the case of suspicions against hierarchical superiors, in the clergy, such as cardinals, patriarchs, or bishops, the description may be addressed directly to the Holy See or to the Metropolitan Archbishop of an Ecclesiastical Province.
The new legislation also modifies the procedural deadlines, in order to compensate for the slowness of canonical justice. Also, investigators will have to open procedures "within thirty days" following the denunciations, and conclude "within 90 days", except for valid reason.
With regard to victims of sexual abuse and their families, Pope Francis assures that they will now be "treated with dignity and respect". The new legislation also provides for "reception, listening and accompaniment", "spiritual assistance" and "medical, therapeutic and psychological assistance, as the case may be".
"In order that these phenomena, in all their forms, can not be reproduced any more, it is necessary a continuous and deep conversion of the hearts, attested by concrete and effective actions which imply each one in the Church," preached the Pontiff.
These new measures made for the holding of a four-day summit last February on sexual abuse, bringing together the bishops and the Cardinals. The Pope then demanded concrete and effective solutions against this scourge.
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