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Pope requires mandatory reporting of sex abuse to church

Published:Thursday | May 9, 2019 | 11:50 AM
Pope Francis does the sign of the cross during his weekly general audience in St Peter's Square at the Vatican Wednesday, May 8, 2019. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis issued a groundbreaking new church law Thursday requiring all Catholic priests and nuns around the world to report clergy sexual abuse and cover-up by their superiors to church authorities in a new effort to hold the Catholic hierarchy accountable for failing to protect their flocks.

Abuse victims and their advocates said it was a step forward, but not enough since it doesn’t require the crimes to be reported to the police and essentially tasks bishops discredited for mishandling abuse for decades with policing their own.

The new law provides whistle-blower protections for anyone making a report and requires all dioceses around the world to have a system in place to receive the claims confidentially.

And it outlines procedures for conducting preliminary investigations when the accused is a bishop, cardinal or religious superior.

It’s the latest effort by Francis to respond to the global eruption of the sex abuse and cover-up scandal that has devastated the credibility of the Catholic hierarchy and his own papacy.

And it provides a new legal framework for U.S. bishops as they prepare to adopt accountability measures next month to respond to the scandal there.

The decree requires the world’s 415,000 Catholic priests and 660,000 religious sisters to inform church authorities when they learn or have “well-founded motives to believe” that a cleric or sister has engaged in sexual abuse of a minor, sexual misconduct with an adult, possession of child pornography — or that a superior has covered up any of those crimes.

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