Pope Francis on Saturday made permanent a temporary 2019 church law, expanding its authority to hold top church officials, or the "lay faithful," responsible for committing or covering up cases of sexual abuse against minors or vulnerable adults.
According to The Wall Street Journal, the new legislation, which goes into effect on April 30, aims to improve the church's accountability and prevent and counter sexual abuse by lay leaders. In 2019, initial legislation was spurred following the revelations of "a spate of scandals involving high-ranking prelates in the U.S., Latin America, and Europe."
While the updated version is unlikely to quell criticisms of the church's internal auditing of abuses, the new law, which builds on the former, maintains "every Catholic diocese around the world" must carry a "public, stable, and easily accessible" procedure for reporting allegations of abuse. The law, which originally mentions the investigation of bishops and cardinals committing abuses or cover-ups, has now expanded to the lay leaders of Vatican-recognized "international associations of the faithful."
Nonetheless, critics argue the law, while making the procedure for reporting abuses open to the public, remains opaque when it actually comes to disclosing to the public who committed the abuses.
In a scathing critique earlier this month, a leading champion for the rights of abuse victims slammed the Vatican for its failure to disclose the identities of bishops and top officials of religious orders who have been scrutinized under the institution's investigative protocols.
Anne Barrett Doyle of BishopAccountability.org told reporters that "although he has said he wants transparency, the pope has left the people in the dark. Survivors and Catholics in the pews need and deserve this information."
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