In a bid to improve transparency and enhance co-operation with civil authorities, Pope Francis has declared that “the rule of pontifical secrecy no longer applies to the sexual abuse of minors,” Reports BBC.
For decades the Vatican hid cases of children being abused by priests under the guidelines of “Pontifical Secret” under the guise to protect the privacy of victims of sexual abuse. But in reality this exercise was to safeguard the reputation of the Catholic Church.
The consequence of breaching the pontifical secret was “excommunication from the Church.”
A new papal documents on Tuesday (17 December) lifted restrictions on those who report abuse or say they have been victims.
In February Church leaders called for the rule's abolition at a Vatican summit to ‘improve transparency’ and the ability of the police and other civil legal authorities to request information from the Church.
The Pope said, “Information in abuse cases should still be treated with security, integrity and confidentiality." He also issued instructions to Vatican officials to comply with civil laws and assist civil judicial authorities in investigating such cases.
Charles Scicluna, the Archbishop of Malta called the move an "epochal decision that removes obstacles and impediments and the question of transparency now is being implemented at the highest level".
As per reports, the Pope also changed the Vatican's definition of child pornography, increasing the age of the subject from 14 or under to 18 or under.
Just on Tuesday (17 December), a class-action lawsuit was filed in the federal court in Manhattan brought by seven victims of abuse at the hands of Catholic clergy. They are also suing Pope Francis, claiming he and senior Vatican officials were aware that a number of priests molested children but kept the revelation a secret in a report published in New York Post.
The purpose of Pontifical secrecy was designed to protect sensitive information such as communications between the Vatican and papal embassies. But for years this rule has been used as a cover-up by the church in judicial cases to hide the crimes of priests in the garb of protecting identities of victims.
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