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Pope brings sweeping changes to Vatican justice system

Death penalty abolished, abuse punishments stiffened

<p>Picture: Vatican Insider/La Stampa</p>

Picture: Vatican Insider/La Stampa

  • Alessandro Speciale for Vatican Insider/La Stampa
  • Vatican City
  • July 12, 2013
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“In our times, the common good is increasingly threatened by transnational organized crime, the improper use of the markets and of the economy, as well as by terrorism.” 

Pope Francis said this in his Motu Proprio on criminal law matters and administrative sanctions within Vatican City State and the Holy See, issued today. The Pope said it is “necessary for the international community to adopt adequate legal instruments to prevent and counter criminal activities, by promoting international judicial cooperation on criminal matters.”

In his Apostolic Letter Motu Proprio, Francis explains that the purpose of it is to “renew the Apostolic See’s commitment to cooperate to these ends.”

No changes have been made to the legislation since the Vatican City State based its criminal system on the former Italian criminal code (known as the Zanardelli Code) in 1929, after the Lateran Treaty was signed, creating the Vatican City State. This is why Benedict XVI’s former butler, Paolo Gabriele, was only charged with theft. This was the only offence he could be tried for under the Vatican law in force at the time, given that attacks against State security were not listed as an offence.

In the Supplementary Norms on Criminal Law Matters introduced today Pope Francis provided a broader definition of the category of crimes against minors, “including: the sale of children, child prostitution, the recruitment of children, sexual violence and sexual acts with children, and the production and possession of child pornography.”

This is an important development in the fight against sex abuse in the Church, begun by Benedict XVI and continued by Francis, because the new rules do not just apply to officials and Roman Curia staff but to Apostolic Nuncios, the Holy See’s diplomatic corps and staff from the various organisations and institutions linked to the Holy See, regardless of whether they are on Vatican soil or not.

Full Story: Francis abolishes life imprisonment and raises penalties against abuse 

Source: Vatican Insider/La Stampa

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