Vatican: Reporting of sexual abuse by priests must follow civil law
The Vatican said Monday that cases of sexual abuse of minors by Catholic clerics "must always" be reported to authorities in accordance with civil law, DPA reported.
The instruction was included in a document that the Vatican said could help lay persons and those not familiar with church, or canon law, understand procedures in sexual abuse cases.
"Civil law concerning reporting of crimes to the appropriate authorities should always be followed," the document said.
It also specified that in "very grave cases," where a cleric was found guilty of sexual abuse of minors in a civil criminal trial, the pope could issue a decree to defrock the cleric without having to follow a church trial procedure.
The Vatican has insisted the document, which comes in the wake of a series of abuse scandals involving the church in several countries, contains nothing new.
It said it is based on 2001 overhaul of the Vatican's sexual-abuse laws by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) then headed by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the current Pope Benedict XVI.
Critics allege that the 2001 directives failed to explicitly order bishops to report abuse cases occurring in their dioceses to civil authorities.
But the Vatican has denied this, with spokesman Father Federico Lombardi saying that nothing in the CDF directives precluded bishops from cooperating with civil authorities.