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Pope Francis revises Catholic Church’s laws on sexual abuse 

The changes are meant to "reduce the number of cases in which the imposition of a penalty was left to the discretion of authorities." 

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Pope, vatican Pope Francis celebrates a Mass with members of religious institutions on the occasion of the celebration of the World Day of Consecrated Life, in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2021. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini, pool)

Pope Francis on Tuesday has changed the Roman Catholic Church’s penal code to expand the definition of sexual abuse to include not only children but adults, The New York Times reports.

According to the Times, Francis’ revisions of the Vatican’s Code of Canon Law is a legal framework for the world’s 1.3 billion Catholics. It is the church’s biggest change to its laws in 40 years and will replace the code approved by Pope John Paul II.

Such revisions include new categories that offer more concise language that will make it easier for bishops to be held accountable, as well as placing abuse against minors in the section “Offences Against Human Life, Dignity and Liberty,” which includes “grooming” of children or vulnerable adults for sexual abuse and possessing child pornography, according to NBC News.

The changes are meant to “reduce the number of cases in which the imposition of a penalty was left to the discretion of authorities.”