New Vatican law criminalizes abuse of adults, even by laity

By NICOLE WINFIELD Associated Press

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis has changed church law to explicitly criminalize the sexual abuse of adults by priests who abuse their authority.

It also says laypeople who hold church office can be sanctioned for sex abuse crimes. The new provisions, released Tuesday after 14 years of study, were contained in the revised criminal law section of the Vatican's Code of Canon Law, the in-house legal system that covers the 1.3-billion strong Catholic Church.

The most significant changes aim to address major problems and shortcomings in the church's handling of sexual abuse. The law recognizes that adults, too, can be victimized by priests who abuse their authority, and said that laypeople in church offices can be punished for abusing minors as well as adults.

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