Vatican City: Pope Francis, the head of the Catholic Church and sovereign of the Vatican City State, has abolished the use of the secrecy rule that was protecting pedophiles in the Catholic Church.
The removal of the secrecy rule comes after mounting criticism that the pontifical secrecy has been used to protect pedophiles in the Catholic Church.
The rule was reportedly silencing victims and prevented police from investigating the crimes against the suspects.
Pope Francis announced the removal of the laws through new papal documents.
Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta, the most experienced sexual abuse investigator of the Vatican City, said, “This is an epochal decision.”
The lifting of pontifical secrecy in sexual abuse investigations were being demanded by church leaders, which includes Scicluna and the German Cardinal Reinhard Marx.
Earlier this year, Scicluna and Reinhard Marx, the Cardinal of Germany, talked about sexual abuse at the Vatican earlier this year.
The 2 argued that secrecy in cases such as child sexual abuse was outdated and that some church officials were hiding behind it instead of cooperating with the police.
Scicluna said the new provisions have opened up ways to communicate with victims and cooperate with the state.
Scicluna said, “Certain jurisdictions would have easily quoted the pontifical secret … to say that they could not and that they were not, authorized to share information with either state authorities or the victims.”
Scicluna added, “Now that impediment, we might call it that way, has been lifted, and the pontifical secret is no more an excuse.”
Documentation from the church’s in-house legal proceedings will still not become public.
But the new laws remove the excuses to not cooperate with legal requests from prosecutors, the police, and other investigating agencies in the world.
Pope Francis also raised from 14 years old to 18 years old as the cutoff age below which the Vatican considers pornographic images to be child pornography.
The reform is a response to the Vatican’s increasing awareness of the prolific spread of online child porn that has frequently implicated churchmen.
Mattias Katsch, an abuse survivor and the founder of the Ending Clergy Abuse, said, “Now it is important that further steps are taken towards transparency – also with regard to the thousands of acts of abuse cases stored in Vatican chambers and palaces. These files must be made available for independent review and investigation.”
The new laws were issued on Tuesday, which was also the 83rd birthday of Pope Francis.