The Pope Changes Church Law To Criminalise Priests Sexually Abusing Adults


Pope Changes Church Law To Criminalise Priests Sexually Abusing AdultsPA Images

Pope Francis has changed church law to criminalise priests who take advantage of their authority and sexually abuse adults.

The new rules will see non-ordained members of the Catholic Church, including school principles and parish economists, who commit similar crimes be penalised as well.


The changes were announced today, June 1, as part of a revised criminal law section of the Vatican’s Code of Canon Law, the Church’s in-house legal system.

This ruling follows previous changes implemented by Pope Francis in a bid to clamp down on the abuse of minors within the religion.

Pope Francis (PA Images)PA Images

Today’s revised legislation comes after 14 years of study and accepts the fact that adults can be victimised by priests, the same way children and young adults can, AP News reports.


Under the new law, priests who engage in sexual activity with anyone, not just minors or those lacking the use of reason, can be stripped of their title if they used ‘force, threats or abuse of his authority’ to carry out such activity. Before now, it was only criminal if the priest used force or threats.

Punishment may include ‘dismissal from the clerical state if the case so warrants’.

Another change to the Code includes the ‘grooming’ of both minors and vulnerable adults by priests who encourage them to ‘engage in pornography,’ AP News reports. Bishops can also be removed from office for ‘culpable negligence,’ or if they don’t report sex crimes to authorities.

The code was first introduced in 1983, though lawyers and bishops have ever since said it was not enough to deal with heinous crimes such as the abuse of minors.

Bible (Pexels)Pexels

Prior to today’s announcement, sexual relationships between priests and consenting adults was seen as ‘sinful’, The New York Times reports, but it’s only just become criminalised.

Last month, Pope Francis stated that the new, revised legislation ‘introduces various modifications to the law in force and sanctions some new criminal offenses, which respond to the ever more widespread need in the various communities to see the re-establishment of justice and order broken by the crime.’

Since the Vatican Code was implemented, many people complained that it failed to deal with the sexual abuse of minors within the Church because it required ‘time-consuming trials’.


Meanwhile, victims felt it gave the abusers too much discretion. Pope Francis made changes to this at the end of 2019 and said the rule of ‘pontifical secrecy’ would no longer apply to abuse-related accusations, trials and decisions under the Catholic Church’s canon law.

If you have been affected by any of the issues in this article and wish to speak to someone in confidence, you can contact Victim Support free on 08 08 16 89 111 available 24/7, every day of the year, including Christmas.

Topics: News, Catholic Church, Pope Francis, Sexual abuse, Vatican


AP News and 1 other
Niamh Shackleton
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