Pope criminalises leaks and sex abuse in Vatican law

Pope Francis has overhauled laws that govern the Vatican City, criminalising leaks of information and specifically listing sexual violence, prostitution, and possession of child pornography as crimes against children that can be punished by up to 12 years in prison.

Pope criminalises leaks and sex abuse in  Vatican law

The legislation covers clergy and lay people who live and work in Vatican City and is different from the canon law which covers the Catholic Church.

The bulk of the Vatican’s penal code is based on the 1889 Italian code. Many of the new provisions were necessary to bring the city state’s legal system up to date after the Holy See signed international treaties, such as the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Others were necessary to comply with international norms to fight money-laundering, part of the Vatican’s push toward financial transparency.

One new crime stands out, though, as an obvious response to the leaks of papal documents last year that represented one of the gravest Vatican security breaches in recent times.

Paolo Gabriele, the butler for then-Pope Benedict XVI, was convicted by a Vatican court of stealing Benedict’s personal papers and giving them to an Italian journalist. His crime shattered the confidentiality that typically governs correspondence with the pope.

The penalties for violations of the new law are stiff: Anyone who reveals or receives confidential information or documentation risks six months to two years in prison and a €2,000 fine; the penalty goes up to eight years in jail if the material concerns the “fundamental interests” of the Holy See or its diplomatic relations with other countries.

The law gives a broader definition of the crimes against children, including the sale of children, child prostitution, recruiting children, sexual violence, sexual acts with children, and the production and possession of child pornography.

In the old code, such general crimes would have carried a maximum penalty of three to 10 years, said Vatican spokesman Rev Federico Lombardi.

Under the revision, the punishments go from five to 10 years, with aggravating circumstances bringing the maximum up to 12 years, he said.

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