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On Saturday, Pope Francis updated the Catholic Church’s sexual abuse decree, which was originally put forth in 2019 to stop abuse caused by church leaders. The biggest change is that lay leaders as well as senior clergy can now be held responsible under the decree.
While extending sexual abuse protection to adult victims who lack mental capacity and can be taken advantage of, the decree also adds new protections for those who report the abuse, reported the Catholic News Agency.
The 2019 version of the decree instructed dioceses to create a clear system for receiving abuse reports. Moving forward, these systems are required to be even more accessible, per Catholic News Agency.
The permanent implementation and updates to the decree are a “result of broad consultation and learning from the experience” of the church, Cardinal Blase Cupich, the archbishop in Chicago and member of the Vatican’s task force for the protection of minors, told Vatican News.
“I think that this document is a clear indication that the Holy Father is saying that people in authority in the Church are going to be held responsible for how they handle (abuse),” Cupich said.
But, “Vos estis lux mundi” — as the decree is referred to by the church, meaning “You are the light of the world” — is seen by some as failing to meet the pope’s promises of a “revolutionary” reform following the bandaid maneuvers taken in 2019 when the decree was first made, reported The Associated Press.
“The Catholic people were promised that (the law) would be ‘revolutionary,’ a watershed event for holding bishops accountable,” Anne Barrett Doyle, co-director of BishopAccountability.org, told the AP. “But in four years, we’ve seen no significant housecleaning, no dramatic change.”
The decree was made permanent amid even more clergy members being accused of sexual abuse, including hundreds across California earlier this year, per NBC.
While announced this week, the decree will go into effect on April 30, per Catholic News Agency.