The Vatican acts
by: John Tyrrell
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Pope Francis made the news this week by making sexual abuse of children illegal in the Vatican. This was not a change to canon law, but to the criminal law of the statelet headed by the Pope.
Not bad - it only took four months into his papacy for this decisive action which is really not bad for drafting a new law, even under a dicatorship, which is essentially what the Vatican is.
But still, it is a brand new law. Until now there has been no law making sexual abuse of children illegal in the Vatican, no law protecting children since the Vatican's founding.
Child abuse by Catholic clergy became a very public issue early in the reign of the soon-to-be sainted Pope John Paul II. Did John Paul II make child abuse illegal in the Vatican?
Then there was Pope Benedict XVI, who as Cardinal Ratzinger sat on numerous recommendations for removal from the priesthood of serial offenders - procrastinating - doing nothing - just following JPII's orders. And did he make sexual abuse of children in the Vatican illegal when he became Pope?
As there are very few children in the Vatican, the new law largely symbolic. But it does include an extraterritorial provision so it does have teeth - Vatican residents can be prosecuted for crimes committed abroad. This would have probably picked up the likes of Monsignor Bernard Prince, Pope John Paul II's best friend in the Vatican, who reportedly took frequent vacations in Thailand.
So - for all the criticism I offer the Vatican, and probably will continue to do in the future, I'll give Pope Francis a "well done." But still, the law was long overdue.
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