The changes, to be revealed within the next few days, would enshrine into ‘universal law’ exceptions granted in 2003 by late Pope John Paul II to a 2001 Vatican document governing abuse.
The “instructions” are also expected to extend the statute of limitations in which abuse victims can come forward and report their abuse 10 years after their 20th birthday rather than a decade after their 18th birthday.
The changes will codify into canon law exceptions that already allow the Vatican’s doctrinal office, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, to defrock priests but through faster administrative procedures rather than a full ecclesiastical trial.
However, in the quiet battle raging deep inside Vatican City, the amendments are likely to appear as a defeat for many traditionalist members of the hierarchy who believe that anything short of a full canonical trial betrays the church’s trust in a priest and deprives him of due process.
Vatican officials say they will also identify child pornography as a serious offense to be handled by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.