In a major move for the Catholic Church, Pope Francis has now said that church officials can share information Relating to sexual abuse with secular law enforcement authorities. This is one of the largest changes in policy regarding sexual abuse in the church ranks that has ever occurred. At Soloff & Zervanos, P.C., we are dedicated to helping victims of childhood sexual abuse. Today, our New York City sexual abuse attorneys want to discuss what this ruling from the Pope means.
On December 17, 2019, the Vatican announced that it would abolish the high level of secrecy it has traditionally applied to sexual abuse allegations against its clerics . Critics have long railed against this policy, saying that it is shielded priests from criminal punishment by secular authorities.
As we have learned continuously over the last few years, there are those in the Catholic Church who have cover up serious allegations of abuse going back decades. The Pope stopped short of making it required for church officials to turn over information about abuse claims to police. The new policy only makes the turning over of such information “acceptable.”
Anne Barrett Doyle, co-director of BishopAccountability.org, said that “For decades, pontifical secrecy has been an obstruction to civil justice, spurring bishops worldwide to thwart prosecutions of abusive priests.”
Along with this change, the Pope made canon law regarding child pornography more stringent. Before, the dissemination or possession of pornographic images of children between the ages of 14 to 18 was not considered a grave crime. Now, the church will consider any images of children under the age of 18 that are sexual in nature to be pornographic and a crime.
On February 14th, 2019, the state of New York created a one year period in “when any adult survivors of child sexual abuse can sue an abuser or a negligent institution, no matter how long ago the abuse took place.”
This one year period began on August 14th, 2019, And has allowed for victims who were previously barred from filing cases to have a voice and bring to light what happened to them. The changes implemented by Pope Francis may help assist victims who are taking advantage of this new law to gain some closure.
If you or somebody you love has been the victim of childhood sexual abuse, seek legal assistance as soon as possible. The team at Soloff & Zervanos, P.C. is dedicated to helping adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse hold those who abuse them accountable for their actions. We will work to secure the compensation you deserve, which can include: