Pope extends decree to counter lay and clerical abuse

legislation to counter sexual abuse in the Catholic Church. 

WelCom April 2023

Pope Francis has permanently decreed an updated version of Vos estis lux mundi, his landmark legislation to counter sexual abuse in the Catholic Church. 

The decree promulgated 25 March extends the Church’s norms for handling of abuse to cover lay leaders of international associations of the faithful recognised by the Vatican. 

Vos estis lux mundi (‘You are the light of the world’) reaffirms an obligation to report cases of ‘vulnerable adult’ victims of abuse, including violence against religious women by clerics and cases of harassment of adult seminarians or novices by a superior.

It also includes protections for people who witness acts of abuse, in addition to those who submit reports of alleged abuse, stipulating that no ‘obligation of silence’ may be imposed on those who report, witness, or are victims of abuse.

The new norms will go into force on 30 April 2023 and replace the pope’s previous provisional version of Vos estis lux mundi published nearly four years ago.

The norms regard what are called, in canon law, ‘delicts against the sixth commandment of the Decalogue,’ consisting of sexual acts with a minor or vulnerable person; forcing someone to perform or submit to sexual acts through violence, threat, or abuse of authority, and the production or possession of child pornography.

In the apostolic letter signed on the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord, Pope Francis wrote that it is ‘good that procedures are universally adopted to prevent and combat these crimes that betray the trust of the faithful.’

The Pope said the updated version of the norms takes into account the comments he received from bishops’ conferences and the Roman Curia on Vos estis lux mundi since it was published.

Pope Francis first promulgated Vos estis lux mundi in May 2019 on an experimental basis for a period of three years. 

The norms for the Church’s handling of sex abuse placed seminarians and religious coerced into sexual activity through the misuse of authority in the same criminal category as abuse of minors and vulnerable adults.

Source: CNA