Vatican to publish new rules on child sex abuse

The revised rules will classify child pornography as a "serious offence”.

Vatican City: The Vatican will publish revised rules on the handling of priest sex abuse cases on Thursday, a source close to the Vatican said.

The rules are expected to extend the statute of limitations for sex abuse crimes from 10 to 20 years after the victim`s 18th birthday and to classify child pornography as a "serious offence”.

The revisions update a 2001 document -- a "motu proprio" signed by Pope Benedict XVI`s predecessor John Paul II -- dealing with "serious crimes”.

That text was prepared by Benedict, who as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was the Vatican`s chief moral enforcer as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF).

The new rules will also deem abuse of disabled people to be as serious as that of children, according to the ANSA news agency.

The Vatican posted guidelines on handling paedophilia cases in April at the height of abuse scandals sweeping the Church.

Late last year, Ireland was rocked by two successive reports revealing widespread abuse mainly of boys by priests going back decades, coupled with the Church hierarchy`s complicity in covering it up.

The pope issued a pastoral letter to Irish Catholics in March expressing shame and remorse for the revelations of abuse committed by those entrusted with the care of young people in Ireland, in cases stretching back decades.

The scandals snowballed with revelations in the pope`s native Germany, Belgium, Austria, United States, Brazil and other countries.

The pope has repeatedly condemned paedophile priests, and he has met with abuse victims in Australia, the United States and Malta.

The updated version of the 2001 motu proprio on sacramental crimes will also list the attempted ordination of women as priests as a "crime against faith”, Vatican watchers say.

The CDF decreed in 2007 that those who attempt to ordain women -- and the women concerned -- are subject to automatic excommunication.


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