“Today’s revision delivers a few modest changes, some of which are welcome. It’s good that it clarifies that abuse of vulnerable adults is a crime under canon law and that lay leaders of religious associations can be subject to penalties, too,” Anne Barrett Doyle, co-director of the advocacy group BishopAccountability.org, said in a statement. “But this policy needed an extensive revamping, not a few tweaks.”

She argued that it kept bishops in control of investigating and judging allegations against fellow bishops, failed to deliver requirements on informing the public, and obligated clerics to report abuse to civil authorities only if local law mandated it.

“Today’s long-awaited update of the pope’s key anti-abuse law is a big disappointment,” Ms. Barrett Doyle said.

And on Saturday, the church’s woes regarding sexual abuse continued.

Francis accepted a resignation request on Saturday from Franz-Josef Bode, bishop of Osnabrück, Germany, who asked to step down because of mistakes he had made in handling sexual abuse cases.

He explained that a report on abuse by clergy members in the diocese had revealed his errors in September. He acknowledged his responsibility, saying, “Today, I can only ask all those affected again for forgiveness.”

Procedural updates in the new version harmonize the 2019 law with norms to protect minors. It reaffirms that minors are under 18 and keeps a ban on the trafficking and use of pornography that exploits minors or people without full capacity of reason. Any abuse of minors must be “rapidly” communicated to the cleric in charge of the area, and if it involves the bishop in charge, then a pontifical representative, or ambassador, in the area must be notified.

The new law reaffirms a commitment to a “presumption of innocence” for all accused officials and clerics and does not require clerics to report accusations to civil authorities. The Vatican has long argued that in some countries, reporting claims to law enforcement could result in the ostracizing of victims and potentially a death sentence for the accused. Some victims’ groups consider this an excuse to avoid greater accountability.

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