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St Peter's Basilica
The new rules are meant to crack down on sexual abuseImage: AP

New rules

July 15, 2010

The Vatican has updated its internal rules regarding sexual abuse cases involving Catholic priests. The new rules extend the Vatican's statute of limitations and expedite the process for defrocking pedophile priests.


The Vatican has issued a new set of rules on how the Church handles sexual abuse cases. Instances of sexual abuse by Catholic priests have come up in the United States and several European countries, including Pope Benedict XVI's native country Germany. Many of the cases involved abuse of children or mentally handicapped people.

The new measures update a set of rules the Vatican implemented in 2001. The Church's statute of limitations regarding sexual abuse cases has been extended from 10 to 20 years. Abuse of a mentally handicapped adult is now treated the same way as abuse of a child, and both can lead to immediate dismissal from the church by decree - without an ecclesiastical trial.

Crimes against the Church

Pope Benedict XVI
The pope has been criticized over his handling of abuse casesImage: AP

Child pornography is now officially listed as a serious offense in the Church, and those caught possessing or distributing child porn will be subject to the same disciplinary actions as sexual predators.

Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said the updated rules would expedite procedures to deal with urgent cases within the Church.

Vatican law refers only to internal matters of the Catholic Church. The stance of the Church regarding cooperation with civil authorities remains unchanged from 2001: members of the church should report cases of sexual abuse to authorities and co-operate with any investigations.

Author: Matt Zuvela (Reuters, dpa, AFP)
Editor: Andreas Illmer

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