Pope Francis issues new Vatican law on reporting sexual abuse

Pope Francis has established new procedures for reporting abuse and violence. It ensures that Bishops and Religious Superiors are held accountable for their actions. Every Diocese must have a system that allows the public to submit reports easily.

The new church law provides whistleblower protections for anyone making a report. And it requires all dioceses around the world to have a system in place to receive the claims confidentially. It also outlines procedures for conducting preliminary investigations when the accused is a bishop, cardinal or religious superior.

It establishes new procedural rules to combat sexual abuse and to ensure that Bishops and Religious Superiors are held accountable for their actions. Also, it establishes universal norms, which apply to the whole Catholic Church.

Among the new requirements:

Each diocese is to establish stable and easily accessible systems for the public to confidentially report abuse and cover-up within a year.

All clerics and church officials are obligated to report abuse and cover-up, and there can be no retaliation against whistleblowers.

In addition to abuse of minors and vulnerable adults, the guidelines also extend to “abuse of authority,” which includes the abuse of nuns and seminarians.

Archbishops or clerics must immediately inform the Vatican of an accusation, and the Vatican has 30 days to respond as to whether an investigation should go forward. The investigation into reported abuse must be completed within 90 days.

If an investigation involves allegations against an archbishop -as was the case with now-defrocked former Archbishop of Washington D.C. Theodore McCarrick – The Vatican can replace the individual with another bishop or an envoy from the Holy See for the purposes of the investigation.

Individual episcopal conferences may decide to include lay people to assist in these investigations.

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