03/25/2023, 15.03
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Fighting paedophilia: association and movement leaders are now also accountable

Pope Francis updates the 2019 apostolic letter "Vos estis lux mundi" that established the rules to follow in order to report sexual abuse. In the definition of victims, more attention is also paid to adults in vulnerable situations.

Vatican City (AsiaNews) – Nearly four years after they were introduced, Pope Francis has updated the procedures to follow against the scourge of sexual abuse within the Catholic Church.

The pontiff released a new version of the 2019 apostolic letter “Vos estis lux mundi”, which laid down the rules to apply when dealing with offences that touch the Sixth Commandment and involve minors or vulnerable persons.

The most significant change is the rules’ wider application. Hitherto, they applied to clerics, members of Institutes of Consecrated Life or Societies of Apostolic Life but now cover “moderators of international associations of the faithful recognised or created by the Apostolic See”.

Henceforth, the Catholic Church will hold them to account as well for any actions or omissions that interfere with or even impede canonical and civil investigations against individuals guilty of crimes of paedophilia or other sexual abuse.

This is an explicit call to associations of the faithful and Catholic movements to take responsibility and fight such serious abuses, which have unfortunately been reported in such groups in recent years.

Another novelty concerns the very definition of victims, which more clearly now includes vulnerable adults. The text now refers to the “crime against the Sixth Commandment of the Decalogue committed with a minor, or with a person who habitually has an imperfect use of reason, or with a vulnerable adult.” The goal is to protect the dignity of all the most defenceless people, regardless of their age.

In the new version of "Vos estis lux mundi”, dioceses and eparchies are directly told to set up an “organisation or office” that can more easily receive reports of abuse from the public, whereas the old version simply mentioned “stable” systems.

Like in the 2019 edition, the preamble to the motu proprio reads: “The crimes of sexual abuse offend Our Lord, cause physical, psychological and spiritual damage to the victims and harm the community of the faithful. In order that these phenomena, in all their forms, never happen again, a continuous and profound conversion of hearts is needed, attested by concrete and effective actions that involve everyone in the Church, so that personal sanctity and moral commitment can contribute to promoting the full credibility of the Gospel message and the effectiveness of the Church’s mission. [. . .] Even if so much has already been accomplished, we must continue to learn from the bitter lessons of the past, looking with hope towards the future.”

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