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Photo: Grzegorz Galazka/Archivio Grzegorz Galazka/Mondadori Portfolio via Getty Image

Pope Francis on Tuesday changed a church law to criminalize the sexual abuse of adults by priests and other church officials, AP reports.

Why it matters: This is the first time Catholic Church law has recognized how sexual predators "groom" their victims based on power imbalances to build relationships that eventually lead to sexual abuse, per AP.

Details: The Vatican’s Code of Canon Law criminal law section was revised after 14 years of study, with two articles specifically addressing the church's handling of sexual abuse.

  • The law now recognizes that adults can be mistreated by priests who abuse their power, and that laypeople — those outside of the clergy — can be punished for abusing children and adults.
  • "The law also removes much of the discretion that had long allowed bishops and religious superiors to ignore or cover up abuse," AP writes.
  • Priests who engage in any sort of sexual act can be defrocked if they abuse their power in order to engage in said acts. Since laypeople can't be defrocked, they will be penalized by losing their jobs, paying fines or being removed from their communities.

The big picture: While the Vatican has long considered sexual relations between a priest and an adults to be sinful but consensual, the #MeToo movement has forced the church to recognize that adults can also be victimized.

What's next: The new laws will take effect on Dec. 8.

Go deeper

Pope Francis: Getting the COVID vaccine is "an act of love"

Pope Francis walks in the Paul VI hall as he arrives for his weekly general audience on Wednesday in the Vatican. Photo: Alberto Pizzoli /AFP via Getty Images

Pope Francis is encouraging people around the world to get the COVID-19 vaccine in a new public service advertisement.

What he's saying: "Getting the vaccines that are authorized by the respective authorities is an act of love. And helping the majority of people to do so is an act of love," Francis says in the ad, which features other Catholic church leaders from the U.S. and Latin America.

Virginia energy giant quietly boosts McAuliffe

Former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe speaks during a campaign rally on Oct. 15 in Henrico, Virginia. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Virginia Democrat Terry McAuliffe has sworn off money from the Richmond company Dominion Energy. But the utility has found more subtle ways to back McAuliffe's gubernatorial bid, records show.

Driving the news: Dominion's political action committee has donated $200,000 to a murky political group called Accountability Virginia PAC, which has been running ads attacking Republican candidate Glenn Youngkin.

1 hour ago - Technology

Race and technology in America

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

The technology industry is famously determined to change the world — but its efforts to diversify its workforce and remove bias from its products haven't changed nearly enough.