VATICAN CITY -- Pope Francis overhauled the laws that govern the Vatican City State yesterday, criminalizing leaks of Vatican information and specifically listing sexual violence, prostitution and possession of child pornography as crimes against children that can be punished by up to 12 years in prison.
The legislation covers clergy and lay people who live and work in Vatican City and is different from the canon law that covers the universal Catholic Church.
It was issued as the Vatican gears up for a grilling by a UN committee on its efforts to protect children under a key UN convention and prevent priests from sexually abusing them. The Vatican signed and ratified the convention on the Rights of the Child in 1990, yet only now, 23 years later, has it updated its legislation to reflect some of the treaty's core provisions.
The bulk of the Vatican's penal code is based on the 1889 Italian code, and in many ways is outdated. Much of the hodgepodge of laws passed yesterday, ranging from listing crimes against humanity to the illicit appropriation of nuclear material, bring the Vatican up to date with the many UN conventions it has signed over the years.
Others were necessary to comply with international norms to fight money-laundering, part of the Vatican's more recent push toward financial transparency. And still others were designed to update the Vatican's legal system with contemporary practice.
The pope also is letting baptized Catholics join the new church structure created to receive Anglican converts. The "ordinariate," which functions like a diocese, was initially designed to enable Anglicans upset over the liberalizing trends of their church to join the Catholic Church while retaining some of their Anglican heritage.
Following up on his call for priests to eschew fancy cars, the pope visited the Vatican garage to see if the city state's fleet met his standards. He urged priests to use "more humble" cars and dedicate the savings to the poor. Francis traveled around Buenos Aires by bus as a cardinal. He calls for a humbler church that looks out for the poor.