The Catholic Church registered, Tuesday 1is June, in its internal legislative code, an explicit article on sexual crimes committed by priests against minors. An addition long demanded by victims of pedophilia within the Church.
The current code of canon law provides for punishing sexual abuse committed by the clergy against minors under the simple title of non-compliance with the sixth commandment of the Bible: “You will not commit adultery.” However, this formulation based on the non-respect of celibacy was denounced as obsolete, even obscure, in terms of civil justice, in view of the avalanche of pedophilia scandals unveiled in recent years in the Church.
The Vatican on Tuesday presented a fairly profound overhaul of one of the seven books of its 1983 canon law, which contains the criminal sanctions of the Catholic Church. These changes will take effect in December.
From penalties to dismissal from the Church
The new legal clarity brought to the serious question of sexual crimes against minors stands out as one of the flagship innovations. In a section called “Crimes against human life, dignity and freedom”, canon law now includes “An offense against the sixth commandment of the Decalogue with a minor or a person habitually affected by an imperfect use of reason or with a person to whom the law recognizes similar protection”.
Anyone who drives a minor to “Participate in pornographic exhibitions” or who keeps child pornography images, a penalty that can go as far as dismissal from the Church.
Before an unprecedented summit, convened by the Pope in February 2019, in the presence of 114 presidents of episcopates from all continents to fight against the sexual assault of minors by members of the clergy, the victims had drawn up a long list of demands. “A clear definition” sexual assault on a minor is necessary to help Church leaders and not a “Vague canon law speaking of” offenses against the sixth commandment of the Decalogue “”, had notably pleaded Marie Collins, an Irish victim, who sat in the commission against pedophilia of the Vatican before resigning with a bang in 2017.