Pope Francis signs law to prevent child abuse in Vatican and its embassies

Vastavam web: Pope Francis on Friday made it compulsory in law to report the sexual abuse of children within the Vatican and in its diplomatic missions worldwide. Although the city state within Rome is tiny, and very few children live there, the sweeping legal changes reflect a desire to show that the Catholic Church is finally acting against clerical child abuse after decades of scandals around the world.

It is the first time a unified and detailed policy for the protection of children has been compiled for the Vatican and its embassies and universities outside the city state. The law sets up procedures for reporting suspected abuse, imposes more screening of prospective employees, and sets strict guidelines for adult interaction with children and the use of social media.

“Laws that make even one child safer should be applauded,” said Anne Barrett Doyle of the U.S.-based abuse tracking group BishopAccountability.org. “While the action is no-risk and limited in scope, it is constructive. It’s a baby step in the right direction,” she said, calling for the pope to undertake “bold, broad reforms” by changing universal Church law.

The scandals have reached the upper echelons of the Vatican itself. Cardinal George Pell, jailed this month for six years for abusing boys in his native Australia, had served as the Vatican treasurer and a member of the pope’s innermost council of cardinals. Vatican diplomatic missions have also been involved in scandals in the past. In 2013, Archbishop Jozef Wesolowski, the Vatican’s ambassador to the Dominican Republic, was charged with paying boys for sex. He was recalled and kept in detention in the Vatican but died in 2015 before his trial.