JEFFERSON CITY — On Friday, Pope Francis issued new sex abuse legislation for Vatican personnel and Holy See diplomats that requires the immediate reporting of abuse allegations to Vatican prosecutors, a policy shift aimed at being a model for the Catholic Church worldwide.
The mandatory reporting provision marks the first time the Vatican has put into law requirements for Catholic officials to report allegations of sex crimes to police or face fines and possible jail time.
Don Asbee is a representative of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, who said the abuse by his former priest started for him at the age of 9. He said the law shouldn't just be a model for the Catholic Church and only apply to the Vatican City, but be applied to every Catholic Church across the board.
"This should apply to any of the people in positions of the church. If it's not universal, then it doesn't have teeth," Asbee said.
He said if it doesn't create a system to punish the people in the church abusing, then it isn't effective.
"The whole cycle of abuse and cover up has got to stop because it's not a sin, it's beyond a sin, it's a crime and it has to be treated accordingly," Asbee said.
Catholic Church member Kelsie Backues said she thinks this is a step forward for the Catholic Church.
"The news was definitely shocking to hear about all the sexual abuse that's been going on, but I'm glad they made the decision to take action about it," she said. "It's been an issue for awhile, so I'm glad they're doing something about it."
Francis also issued child protection guidelines for Vatican City State and its youth seminary, acting after the global sex abuse scandal exploded anew last year and The Associated Press reported that the headquarters of the Catholic Church had no policy to protect children from predator priests.
The law for the first time provides an explicit Vatican definition for "vulnerable people" who are entitled to the same protections as minors under church law. The Vatican amended its canon law covering sex abuse to include "vulnerable adults" several years ago, but never defined it.
The new laws go into effect on June 1.