VATICAN CITY – Pope Francis on Thursday issued a new church law about reporting clergy sex abuse and cover-up, outlining investigation procedures when the accused is a bishop or religious superior. It's the latest effort by the pope to respond to the global eruption of the sex abuse and cover-up scandal.
Some key points of the new protocol, entitled "You are the light of the world":
— Makes all Catholic priests and religious sisters mandated reporters for sex abuse and cover-up to church authorities. Provides whistleblower protections saying they may not suffer "prejudice, retaliation or discrimination."
— Requires every diocese to have a public and accessible system through which claims of sexual abuse and cover-up can be reported confidentially. Dioceses must confirm to the Vatican that the system is in place by June 1, 2020.
— Outlines procedures to conduct preliminary investigations of bishops and religious superiors accused of sexual misconduct or cover-up. The metropolitan bishop, responsible for the broad geographic region of the accused, receives the initial report, requests permission from the Vatican to investigate and completes a preliminary probe within 90 days.
— Allows for "qualified" lay experts to help in investigations.
— Requires that victims reporting abuse be welcomed, listened to and supported by the hierarchy, and offered spiritual, medical and psychological assistance.
— Defines the sex crimes that must be reported as: Performing sexual acts with a minor or vulnerable person; forcing someone by "violence, threat or through abuse of authority, to perform or submit to sexual acts;" production, exhibition, possession or distribution of child pornography, as well as inducing minor or vulnerable person to participate in exhibiting porn.
— Defines cover-ups that must be reported as "Actions or omissions intended to interfere with or avoid civil investigations or canonical investigations."