Soon the Vatican will publish new rules to handle sex abuse. The revisions are largely a matter of consolidating norms that have been in place for several years. However, there are some new things.

The possession of child pornography by a priest will become a felony and bishops should immediately inform Rome of the crime. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith can even decide to immediately remove a priest.

Additionally, the statute of limitations will be extended for sex abuse crimes to 20 years after the victim’s eighteenth birthday. The Church can proceed canonically against the guilty until the victims have turned 38 years old.

In civil proceedings often the statute of limitations has already been reached, usually 10 years after the abuse was committed.

The rest of the guidelines refer to the canonical status of accused priests of these crimes and will allow the quick removal of the guilty.

They will keep the Vatican line of advising bishops to bring reports to authorities, even in countries where the law does not require it.

In addition to these rules, in the fall the Vatican will publish a guide for bishops’ conferences on how to deal with cases of sex abuse. It will advise people how to put into practice effective measures that have been applied in the US for years, for example, creating an independent commission to listen to the victims and remove priests the first time they abuse a minor.

Carolyn Moynihan

Carolyn Moynihan is the former deputy editor of MercatorNet