Pope’s New Guidelines on Sexual Abuse by Priests Have No Impact on U.S. Churches

Pope’s New Guidelines on Sexual Abuse by Priests Have No Impact on U.S. Churches | Pintas & Mullins Law Firm

Pope Francis has issued a new decree which requires Vatican City officials or diplomats around the world to immediately report allegations of sexual abuse by priests or others, or face possible jail time.

The Pope’s edict comes on the heels of an international summit of church leaders held in February to address abuse of minors by clergy.


Developed in response to the sexual abuse scandals which have rocked the Catholic Church, the Pope’s new decree includes a statute of limitations for anyone victimized as a child that extends to 20 years after the minor turns 18. The mandate also clarifies the definition of “vulnerable people” as any person in "a state of infirmity, of physical or mental deficiency, or of deprivation of personal liberty" that limits their comprehension or ability "to resist the offense."


Unfortunately, the decree and accompanying guidelines have no legal impact on parishes or congregations in the U.S. and other nations. Given that, it is still up to individuals to recognize the signs of possible sexual abuse by priests or others. Behaviors that may indicate a priest or other adult may have sexually abused a child include the following:



  • Misses or ignores social cues about others’ personal boundaries;
  • Has a "special" child friend;
  • Spends much of his spare time with children and shows little interest in spending time with someone his own age;
  • Encourages silence and secrets in children.


Sexual interactions

  • Links sexuality and aggression in language or behavior;
  • Makes fun of children's body parts or describes children with sexual words;
  • Seems unclear about what is appropriate with children;
  • Views child pornography.


Personal safety/responsibility

  • Makes poor decisions while misusing drugs or alcohol;
  • Defends poor choices or harmful acts, or blames others for behaviors;
  • Minimizes or denies harmfulness of actions or words despite obvious negative impact.


What to Do If You Have Been Abused

If you believe a priest or adult may be abusing a minor, or if you have been a victim of sexual abuse by a priest or another adult, contact an attorney immediately who can determine whether you may have a claim. And if a case of sexual abuse of a minor still exists, contact the authorities. Bottom line: sexual abuse of a minor by a priest or any adult is a crime that must be reported.


If you suspect sexual abuse of a minor by a member of the clergy, contact our experienced sexual abuse attorneys today. All consultations are confidential and free. If we represent you or your loved one, you pay nothing unless we win. Call 800-730-7111 today.