The Vatican made sweeping revisions on Thursday it its laws on sexual abuse, doubling a statute of limitations for disciplinary action against priests and extending the use of fast-track procedures to defrock them.
In an unexpected move, the Vatican also codified the “attempted ordination of a woman” to the priesthood as one of the most serious crimes against Church law.
The changes, the first in nine years, affect Church procedures for defrocking abusive priests. They make some legal procedures which were so far allowed under an ad hoc basis, the global norms to confront the crisis.
“This gives a signal that we are very, very serious in our commitment to promote safe environments and to offer an adequate response to abuse,” Monsignor Charles Scicluna, a Vatican doctrinal official who helped revise the norms, told a news conference. “If more changes are needed, they will be made.”
Victims groups said the new rules did not go far enough, particularly because they did not hold bishops directly responsible for the mishandling of abuse cases on their watch. BishopAccountability.org, a data center for sexual abuse in the Church, called the changes mere “administrative tinkering of a secretive internal process” and said the statute of limitations should have been eliminated instead of extended.