Vatican City

Pope wields new broom on Vatican laws

Scraps life imprisonment, ups sex-abuse penalties in Holy See

Pope wields new broom on Vatican laws

(By Denis Greenan). Vatican City, July 11 - Pope Francis unveiled a raft of new laws on Friday, from harsher penalties for crimes inside the Vatican against children and those found guilty of stealing confidential documents, to abolishing life imprisonment and buffing up anti-money-laundering efforts. The laws were announced in a papal decree known as a Motu Proprio and were approved by the Pontifical Commission for the State of Vatican City. According to the decree, penalties will be ramped up in September for crimes against minors, which include child prostitution, sexual violence, sexual acts, producing child pornography and keeping child pornography. The penalties also apply to offices of the Roman Curia, which is the executive body of the Vatican. The Holy See also increased penalties for the unauthorized removal of official documents from Vatican offices. The move comes a year after Paolo Gabriele, Benedict XVI's butler, was arrested for leaking confidential letters and documents in the so-called VatiLeaks scandal. Finally, the decree also says the Church will carry out Benedict XVI's reforms begun in 2010 aimed at giving the Holy See more means for preventing and fighting money laundering and efforts to fund terrorism through the Vatican Bank, officially known as the Institute for Religious Works (IOR). The raft of laws addressed many issues - some painful, others embarrassing - that marked the papacy of Benedict, who stepped down in March over deteriorating health. Most recently, Benedict's papacy was upset by the VatiLeaks affair, which revealed long-suspected levels of intrigue and power struggles inside the Curia, as well as touching on shady dealings by IOR. Francis has set up a team of cardinals to help him clean up IOR and get it onto the list of countries whose credentials against money laundering are impeccable. IOR has a chequered past ranging from the mafia-linked death of 'God's Banker' Roberto Calvi in 1982 to the recent prosecution of two executives in a money-laundering probe and last week's arrest of a cardinal who allegedly tried to fly 20 million euros of laundered cash back into Italy from Switzerland. The Catholic Church is still reeling from the fallout of the clerical abuse scandals that came to light under Benedict's papacy after years of being hidden by some Church officials. Francis has vowed to continue Benedict's eventually energetic campaign and stamp out sexual abuse for good, even promising to tackle a gay lobby in the Curia. So Thursday's raft of laws against sex abuse were hailed by the media as another step in the right direction. One voice refusing to join the choir, however, was the leading US clerical abuse protest group, which pooh-poohed Francis's crackdown as a "tweak" which would in any case only apply within the tiny confines of the Vatican City. In a statement, David Clohessy, Director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said: "For the Vatican's image, this is a successful move. For children's safety, this is another setback. "It's a setback because it will help foster the false impression of reform and will lead to more complacency. "In the real world, this changes virtually nothing. It's precisely the kind of 'feel good' gesture that Vatican officials have long specialized in: tweaking often-ignored and ineffective internal church abuse guidelines to generate positive headlines but nothing more. "While the headlines may proclaim "Pope makes new church rules about abuse," the fine print makes it clear that there's just one rule, and it purportedly makes more child sexual violence illegal on the 0.2 square miles of Vatican property," Clohessy said.

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