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Pope Francis issues sweeping new law for sexual abuse reporting

Pope francis standing with priests
Photo: Massimo Valicchia/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Pope Francis issued a sweeping new Vatican law Thursday that requires all priests and nuns worldwide to report sexual abuse and subsequent coverups to Catholic Church authorities, the AP reports.

Why it matters: This is the Church's latest attempt to salvage its reputation and to curb mounting criticisms of its institutional negligence toward sexual abuse victims.

The big picture: The system makes the Church's priests and nuns worldwide "mandated reporters" of sexual abuse and assault — similar to the system in place for university employees in the U.S. It also guarantees them whistleblower protections and outlines procedures when the accused is a religious superior, like a bishop or cardinal.

  • The new laws require dioceses worldwide to implement systems that allow confidential reporting. It also makes no distinction about past cases, meaning that systems could see a flood of retroactive reports of abuse from long ago.
  • The laws include no punishment for priests and nuns who choose not to report cases of abuse — and has no sanctions in place for diocese that choose not to implement reporting systems.
  • Victims who report sexual abuse must be offered mental and spiritual assistance, but the law includes no form of financial reparations.

Go deeper: Former Pope blames the sexual revolution, secularism for abuse in Catholic Church