Pope Francisco has signed three new documents on Friday that include a reform of the law that regulates the protection of minors in the Vatican City and a series of guidelines for the treatment of cases of pedophilia. The text, fruit of the summit against the abuses celebrated in the Holy See last FebruaryIt includes a series of new measures, such as the obligation to report to the "competent authorities" the abuses of which any priest is aware. The real impact of motu proprio it is extremely limited, since in the Vatican State there are only two parishes and a few dozen minors. However, it must be interpreted as an exemplary message to dioceses around the world and to some States.
The motu proprio signed by Francisco already announced by the Pope at the end of the summit in a lukewarm speech that disappointed the victims, and includes some relevant novelties, although of limited impact. The main one is the obligation to report abuses of which the competent authorities are aware, that is, to the courts and the police, provided they have not been obtained under the secrecy of the confession. "Without prejudice to the sacramental seal," he will be forced to "present, without delay, a complaint to the promoter of justice whenever, in the exercise of his functions, he has news or reasons to believe that a child or a vulnerable person is a victim" , says the text.
In the case of the Vatican – all the Roman curia and the nuncios abroad – it is a strange thing, because everything continues to depend on the same person: the Pope. That is, from the point of view of authority, there is not much difference between who is ultimately responsible. But Vatican sources point out that it is also convenient to interpret it as a message to the States. That is to say, the Holy See would welcome the reform of laws where this type of denunciation is not yet obligatory to the civil courts. In addition, the statute of limitations for these crimes is increased to 20 years after the victim reaches the age of majority: until now it was four years.
The new norm also imposes a sanctioning regime for all those who do not report the cases they know: fines ranging from 1,000 euros to 5,000. Very low amounts for crimes of this type but that, if they could not be paid, would force them to think of a subsidiary responsibility of the Vatican State itself. In addition, the Pope establishes in the document a clarification of what is considered a vulnerable adult, people who are also affected by this law: "Any person in a state of illness, physical or mental disability or deprivation of personal liberty". It will be offered, he adds, "adequate pastoral attention to the victims and their families, adequate spiritual, medical, psychological and legal support and the right to a fair and impartial trial."
Relationship rules with minors
The new text also refers to some rules relating to minors. Prohibits "strictly" from inflicting corporal punishment of any kind, establishing a preferential relationship with a minor, leaving a child in a potentially dangerous situation due to mental or physical security, resorting to a minor in an offensive manner or engage in inappropriate behavior, discriminate against a minor or a group of children, ask a child to keep a secret, give gifts to a minor who discriminates against the rest of the group, photograph or film a minor without the written consent of their parents or guardians and that publish or disseminate, through the network or social network, images of a child in a recognizable manner without the consent of the parents or guardians. "
The spokesman of the Pope, Alessandro Gisotti, wanted to point out the importance that, according to the Holy See, have the changes. "A month after the conclusion of the meeting on the Protection of Minors in the Vatican, strongly desired by Pope Francis, today are published three documents of great importance that respond to the demand of concrete steps manifested by the People of God in facing the plague of child abuse. It is the first important step as a result of the meeting of the Episcopal Conferences, already announced on 24 February. The Holy Father wishes that – thanks also to these norms that concern the State of the Vatican City and the Roman Curia – that everyone should be aware that the Church should increasingly be a safe house for children and vulnerable people. "
If he motu proprio must be interpreted in exemplary key, some of the new rules collide with the reality lived in recent times. Or, at least, they do not clarify the level of sentence that, for example, the accused should receive to be effective. "Any person found guilty of committing these crimes will be dismissed from their positions and will be offered adequate support for psychological and spiritual rehabilitation, as well as for social reintegration purposes." Recent cases of Cardinal of Lyon, Philippe Barbarin -The Pope photographed with him smiling after being condemned for covering up abuses- and the Australian Cardinal George Pell, They point in another direction.