The Pope has declared that the rule of “pontifical secrecy” no longer applies to the sexual abuse of minors, in a bid to improve transparency in such cases.
The Church previously shrouded sexual abuse cases in secrecy, in what it said was an effort to protect the privacy of victims and reputations of the accused.
But new papal documents on Tuesday lifted restrictions on those who report abuse or say they have been victims.
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Church leaders called for the rule’s abolition at a February Vatican summit.
They said the lifting of the rule in such cases would improve transparency and the ability of the police and other civil legal authorities to request information from the Church.
Information in abuse cases should still be treated with “security, integrity and confidentiality”, the Pope said in his announcement. He instructed Vatican officials to comply with civil laws and assist civil judicial authorities in investigating such cases.
The Pope also changed the Vatican’s definition of child pornography, increasing the age of the subject from 14 or under to 18 or under.