Pope Francis is laying down the law in the Vatican. He has announced reforms on laws governing child abuse to penalties for staff who leak confidential information.
The latest overhaul of the Holy See comes after years of scandals which have damaged the image of the Catholic Church.
The changes, which will take effect on September 1, would classify sexual violence and sexual acts against children, child prostitution and pornography under crimes against minors. They could carry a 12 year jail sentence. However, the rules would only apply within the Vatican. The Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP) has slammed the move as “great for the Pope’s image but a setback for children’s safety.”
The Pope also pledged international cooperation on money laundering as the Vatican bank faces an investigation by Italian prosecutors into its own financial dealings. A Council of Europe report last year identified failings in the bank. The Holy See received negative ratings in several areas related to transparency. In June Pope Francis set up a special commission of inquiry to reform the bank. According to the Vatican newspaper Osservatore Romano, they held their first meeting on Thursday, with the Pope in attendance.
Penalties on staff who leak top secret Vatican documents are aimed to clean up the church’s image after the Vatileaks scandal last year. Paolo Gabriele, the butler to previous pontiff Benedict XVI stole top secret documents and leaked them to an Italian journalist who revealed allegations of corruption, nepotism and intimidation within the Vatican in a bestselling book. Now any disclosure of sensitive material is punishable by up to 8 years in jail.