The Pope has this week taken steps to modernise the Vatican’s legal code by explicitly listing certain acts as crimes and enabling the Holy See to prosecute any of its officials who commit crimes outside its walls. The list of crimes includes crimes of torture, genocide and also further defines the list of crimes against children. As a result the following crimes are all explicitly covered in the new regulations: the sale of children, child prostitution, sexual violence and sexual acts with children, and child pornography.
In addition, the Pope has decided to expand the prosecution of crimes by Vatican employees or representatives of the Vatican beyond its walls; meaning any such person who commits a crime outside the Vatican can be indicted by the Holy See for that crime. Previously, only the state in which the crime took place could indict the alleged perpetrator. This is a significant step for the Holy Father and the Holy See and highlights just how seriously the Church is taking its responsibility to prosecute those officials and Church representatives who are guilty of crime, wherever they may be.
The move to update the Vatican’s legal framework was started by Pope Benedict XVI back in 2010 as he attempted to make the Vatican state’s laws compatible with the challenges presented to it by modern society. This includes tackling the evolution of crime which results in a broader base of criminal activities that society now has to contend with.