Pope Francis Issues a New Definition of “Vulnerable” Adult

Catholic News Agency

March 29, 2019

By Ed Condon

Pope Francis issued a new set of canonical norms Friday strengthening existing laws on sexual abuse for the Vatican City State and the Roman Curia.

The new norms introduce a mandatory reporting requirement for curial officials and employees who become aware of – or even suspect – a case of sexual abuse. But the most eye-catching change made by the pope was a redefinition of who can be a victim of sexual abuse.

Canon and Vatican City law obviously focus on the sexual abuse of minors. But in that same legal category is the abuse of “vulnerable” adults. How “vulnerable” adults are defined in law has been hotly contested in recent discussions of scandal and reform in the Church.

The new laws define a vulnerable person very broadly, including anyone “in an infirm state, of physical or mental deficiency, or deprivation of personal freedom, that in fact, even occasionally, limits their capacity to intend or to want or in any way to resist the offense.”

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