Vatican Revises Standards for Dealing With Abusive Priests

The Vatican has announced that it will be issuing a revised set of standards for how the Catholic Church handles clergy that have been accused of sexual abuse.

The document, authored by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), is reported to be a consolidation of the church's current policies on the issue, which will now be codified into canon law.

The original norms were established in 2001 under Pope John Paul II, who described child abuse as one of the "most grave crimes." Updates to the policy were made in 2003 under the leadership of Pope Benedict XVI -then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger- after a new wave of abuse scandals erupted.

Special provisions made in the updates include the ability of the church to defrock a priest by decree rather than a full ecclesiastical trial. Another provision allows lay people to participate as judges in church tribunals.

The new law will also equate possession of child pornography with sexual abuse of minors.

Notably, the updated policy only addresses internal protocols within the church and doesn't mention how to involve civil authorities.

Sources say that policies about reporting crimes to police are documented in a set of guidelines released by the Vatican in April which say that civil laws should always be followed.

According to Catholic News Service, CDF officials said that while the changes are not "earthshaking" they will ultimately strengthen the church's efforts to identify and discipline priests who abuse minors

The revisions are scheduled to be published by mid-July.

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