Pope updates canon law to address pedophilia by priests

Pope Francis updated the Catholic Church’s criminal code, adding directives on punishing sexual abuse crimes of minors by priests long sought by activists against pedophilia.

Revision of the penal sanctions in the Code of Canon Law followed a lengthy process with input from canonist and criminal law experts and came after complaints by victims of sexual abuse and others that the code’s previous wording was outdated and intransparent.

The purpose of the revision is “restoration of justice, the reform of the offender, and the repair of scandal.”

Since becoming pope in 2013, Francis has striven to tackle the sexual abuse scandals involving priests, although activists against pedophilia insist more needs to be done. He convened a summit on clerical sex abuse in 2019 while lifting secrecy rules hindering investigations.

A priest is to be stripped of his office and punished “with other just penalties” if he commits offences with a minor, the new code says.

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