Thiruvananthapuram, June 05: Kerala's Catholic church is preparing to enforce the changes made in the criminal law section of the Vatican’s Code of Canon Law. The decision comes five days after Pope Francis passed new laws on Tuesday.
The changes contained in articles 1395 and 1398 aim to address the church’s shortcomings in handling allegations and incidents related to sexual abuse. The law recognizes that not only children but adults also can be victimized by priests who abuse their authority. The revisions also cover laypeople holding church positions, such as school principals or parish economists, can be punished for abusing minors as well as adults.
The law also removes much of the discretion that had long allowed bishops and religious superiors to ignore or cover up abuse, making clear they can be held responsible for omissions and negligence in failing to properly investigate and sanction errant priests.
Vatican’s Code of Canon Law is a legal system that covers Catholic Church members all over the world. It operates independently from civil laws.
While talking about the development, Kerala Catholic Bishops Council spokesperson Fr Jacob Palakkappilly said that the law will be applicable to all denominations of the Catholic Church in Kerala.
“We hope the new guidelines will help curb incidents of sexual abuse inside the Church in future,” said a senior priest belonging to the Syro-Malabar Church.
The new provisions, released Tuesday after 14 years of study, were contained in the revised criminal law section of the Vatican's Code of Canon Law, the in-house legal system that covers the 1.3 billion-strong Catholic Church. It operates independently from civil laws.