Pope Francis has issued an order removing the highest level of secrecy covering child sex abuse cases involving the clergy, a move demanded by campaigners as part of sweeping changes to the way the Catholic church deals with such allegations.
Critics said the claim of “pontifical secrecy” was used by accused Church officials to avoid cooperating with authorities.
The measures brought by the Pope on Tuesday change universal church law, requiring the reporting of suspicions of sex abuse to civil authorities and forbidding attempts to silence those who report abuse or allege they have been a victim.
The pontiff decreed that information in abuse cases must still be protected by church leaders to ensure its “security, integrity and confidentiality”.
But the Vatican’s leading sex crimes investigator, Archbishop Charles Scicluna, called the reform an “epochal decision” that will allow for better coordination with police forces across the world and open up lines of communication with victims.
Francis also raised from 14 to 18 the cutoff age below which the Vatican considers “pornographic” media to be images of child sexual abuse.