VATICAN CITY: Pope Francis has approved a major updating of the criminal laws of Vatican City State, including in areas dealing with child abuse and terrorism financing, and has ruled that any Vatican employee can be tried by the Vatican court for violating those laws.
The laws were adopted by the Pont-ifical Commission for Vatican City State and were made applicable to all employees around the world – for example, Holy See ambassadors serving abroad – in a document signed by Pope Francis on July 11.
The amendments to the criminal code and code for criminal procedures go into effect on September 1 and bring Vatican law into detailed compliance with several international treaties the Holy See has signed over the past 30 years as well as with developments in international law.
The changes include the abolition of life imprisonment.
The maximum penalty under the new code is 35 years.
The presiding judge of the Vatican City court Giuseppe Dalla Torre said the change reflected a growing consensus among criminologists that life imprisonment was an “inhumane and useless” punishment, as well as the view that prison sentences must be motivated by a desire to rehabilitate, rather than simply punish a criminal.
Mr Dalla Torre said the new laws, in compliance with the Holy See’s signing and ratifying the 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child, defined and set out penalties for specific crimes against minors, including the sale of child-ren, child prostitution, the military recruitment of children, sexual violence against children, and producing or possessing child pornography.
The changes to Vatican City civil law are separate from the universally applicable canon law, norms and sanctions, which require bishops around the world to turn over to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith cases of priests accused of child sexual abuse or possession of child pornography.
The canonical penalties include the possibility of the priest being expelled from the priesthood.