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Francis sweeping reforms to Vatican legal system include from child abuse to money laundering

Saturday, July 13th 2013 - 15:57 UTC
Full article 10 comments
The Argentine born Pope expiates the Church’s sins The Argentine born Pope expiates the Church’s sins

Pope Francis is introducing changes to the Vatican legal system and has announced reforms on laws governing child abuse to penalties for staff who leak confidential information. The latest overhaul of the Holy See comes after years of scandals which have damaged the image of the Catholic Church.

The changes, which will take effect on September 1, would classify sexual violence and sexual acts against children, child prostitution and pornography under crimes against minors. They could carry a 12 year jail sentence.

The Pope also pledged international cooperation on money laundering as the Vatican bank faces an investigation by Italian prosecutors into its own financial dealings. A Council of Europe report last year identified failings in the bank. The Holy See received negative ratings in several areas related to transparency. In June Pope Francis set up a special commission of inquiry to reform the bank. According to the Vatican newspaper Osservatore Romano the Pope was in attendance when the first meeting was held.

Besides spelling out offenses with greater precision, Pope Francis also defined who is considered a “public person,” that is someone who falls under the new regulations.

The list includes “members, officials and personnel of the various organs of the Roman Curia and of the Institutions connected to it,” papal diplomats and their staff, managers or directors who work for the Vatican, and “any other person holding an administrative or judicial mandate in the Holy See.”

Penalties on staff who leak top secret Vatican documents are aimed to clean up the church’s image after the Vatileaks scandal last year. Paolo Gabriele, the butler to previous pontiff Benedict XVI stole top secret documents and leaked them to an Italian journalist who revealed allegations of corruption, nepotism and intimidation within the Vatican in a bestselling book. Now any disclosure of sensitive material is punishable by up to 8 years in jail.

To that respect the Holy See Press Office published the following communiqué regarding Pope Francis' Motu Proprio on matters of criminal law in Vatican City State: “Today His Holiness Pope Francis has issued a Motu proprio on criminal law matters.

On this same date, the Pontifical Commission for Vatican City State has adopted the following laws: Law No. VIII containing Supplementary Norms on Criminal Law Matters: Law No. IX containing Amendments to the Criminal Code and the Criminal rocedure Code, Law No. X containing General Provisions on Administrative Sanctions.

“The Motu proprio makes the criminal laws adopted by the Pontifical Commission for Vatican City State applicable also within the Holy See. The criminal laws adopted are a continuation of the efforts to update Vatican City State’s legal system, building upon the measures adopted since 2010 during the pontificate of Benedict XVI.

“These laws, however, have a broader scope, since they incorporate into the Vatican legal system the provisions of numerous international conventions including: the four Geneva Conventions of 1949, on the conduct of war and war crimes; the 1965 Convention on the elimination of all forms of racial discrimination; the 1984 Convention against torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, the 1989 Convention on the rights of the child and its optional protocols of 2000.

“Of particular note in this context is the introduction of the crime of torture and a broader definition of the category of crimes against minors (including: the sale of children, child prostitution, the recruitment of children, sexual violence and sexual acts with children, and the production and possession of child pornography).

“A section of the legislation introduces a list of crimes against humanity, in particular, the crimes of genocide and apartheid, following broadly the definitions adopted in the 1998 Statute of the International Criminal Court. The section of the Criminal Code regarding offences committed in the exercise of public administration has also been revised in light of the 2003 United Nations Convention against corruption. With regard to penalties, that of life imprisonment has been abolished and it has been replaced with a maximum penalty of 30 to 35 years of imprisonment.

“In line with the most recent developments at the international level, the new legislation also introduces a system of penalties for juridical persons who profit from the criminal activities of their constituent bodies or personnel, establishing their direct liability and providing as penalties a set of interdictions and pecuniary sanctions.

“In the area of criminal procedure, the general principles of presumption of innocence and due process within a reasonable time have been recognized explicitly, while the power of the judicial authorities to adopt precautionary measures has been increased by bringing up to date the provisions for confiscation and the freezing of assets.

“Also of importance is the modernization of the rather dated norms governing international judicial cooperation, with the adoption of measures in line with the standards of the most recent international conventions.

“The law on administrative sanctions is of a general nature so as to serve as a common framework that provides for the possibility of sanctions in different areas intended to promote respect for the norms, to render them effective and to protect the public interests”.

The communiqué concludes, “As a whole, these normative efforts form part of broader process aimed at modernizing further the Vatican legal system with a view to enhancing its consistency and effectiveness”.

Categories: Politics, International.

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  • golfcronie

    Are these laws not already relevant in Italy? So does the Catholic Church have their own laws and if so why are they not being implemented? perhaps it is because they are Latins. Swimming in the same pool , if you get my drift. ( ie Argentina, Italy and the majority of Latin America)

    Jul 14th, 2013 - 07:26 am 0
  • Elena

    Those are reforms over the VATICAN STATE you know.

    Jul 14th, 2013 - 03:01 pm 0
  • golfcronie

    Are you saying that the Vatican State has NOT had these laws before? What sort of religion would condone NON TRANSPARENCY. Christ is the VATICAN at last going to realise that these laws that are NOW going to be implemented have been relevant to the rest of the World for many, many years. Why now?

    Jul 14th, 2013 - 05:51 pm 0
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