Holy Father overhauls Vatican laws on abuse penalties, information leaks and sentencing
Pope Francis has overhauled the laws that govern life in the Vatican, with new rules that include harsher penalties for child abuse, the abolition of life sentences and the criminalisation of leaks.
In a Moto Proprio released this morning, the Holy Father (above) said the reforms would bring the Vatican into line with international treaties.
“In our times, the common good is increasingly threatened by transnational organised crime, the improper use of the markets and of the economy, as well as by terrorism,” the Pope said. “It is therefore necessary for the international community to adopt adequate legal instruments to prevent and counter criminal activities, by promoting international judicial cooperation on criminal matters.
“In ratifying numerous international conventions in these areas, and acting also on behalf of Vatican City State, the Holy See has constantly maintained that such agreements are effective means to prevent criminal activities that threaten human dignity, the common good and peace.”
In an accompanying statement, the Vatican said that the Pope’s decree included ‘a broader definition of the category of crimes against minors’ including child prostitution, sexual acts with children and child pornography.
Another change is that that life imprisonment is to be banned and replaced with a maximum sentence of 35 years.
In addition, a new crime has been introduced that will specifically penalise anyone who leaks confidential Vatican documents, following the recent ‘Vatileaks’ problems.
Anyone who reveals or receives confidential information or documentation risks six months to two years in prison and a £2000 fine the penalty goes up to eight years in prison if the material concerns the ‘fundamental interests’ of the Holy See or its diplomatic relations with other countries.
“While many of the specific criminal offences included in these laws are undeniably new, it would however be incorrect to assume that the forms of conduct thereby sanctioned were previously licit,” Mgr Dominique Mamberti, who is in charge of relations between the Holy See and other states, said. “These were indeed punished, but as broader, more generic forms of criminal activity.”
The new norms also introduce the administrative responsibility of Vatican departments that could help ensure less corruption within the Vatican.
The Pope’s reform ‘extends the reach of the legislation contained in these criminal laws to the members, officials and employees of the various bodies of the Roman Curia,’ the central body of the Catholic Church, Mgr Mamberti said.
The laws will come into force on September 1.