Pope raises age for child porn

Pope Francis raises age for child pornography in Canonical Law to protect more youths

Pope Francis practically eliminated the so-called “pontifical secret” in cases of clerical sexual abuse Tuesday, in what Vatican officials called a sign of “transparency and cooperation with civil authorities,” and also raised the age for what constitutes the crime of possession of child pornography under church law to images of anyone under 18.

Published Dec 17, on the pope’s 83rd birthday, the changes were made in two papal rescripts signed by the Vatican’s Secretary of State, Italian Cardinal Pietro Parolin, and Cardinal Luis Francisco Ladaria, head of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Among the more notable changes Tuesday was the decision to broaden the definition of child pornography.

Pornography

While the old text referred to minors as under 14 years of age, the new text raises it to 18, defining the crime of child pornography as: “The acquisition, possession or distribution by a cleric of pornographic images of minors under the age of eighteen, for purposes of sexual gratification, by whatever means or using whatever technology.”

Francis also lifted restrictions allowing only priests to represent accused parties, opening the role of advocate to any “member of the faithful possessing a doctorate in canon law … approved by the presiding judge of the college.”

The changes are in step with previous revisions to Church law, such as a 2010 rescript from Pope Benedict XVI amending St. John Paul II’s 2001 apostolic letter, Sacramentorum sanctitatis tutela, which dealt with the protection and safeguarding of the sacraments.

More protection

In February, Francis alluded to raising the age limit for minors, saying in his closing speech for a Feb. 21-24 summit on child protection, “We now consider that this age limit should be raised in order to expand the protection of minors and to bring out the gravity of these deeds.”

Already in July 2013, Francis promulgated a law in Vatican City on child pornography with the language, “[E]very human being below the age of eighteen years.”

However, commentators stressed that lifting the pontifical secret does not affect the seal of the confessional, which remains intact.

During that February summit, the so-called “pontifical secret” also took a beating, with several heavyweights in the Francis papacy criticizing it.