VATICAN CITY, July 15 (UPI) -- The Catholic Church's statute of limitations on child sexual abuse has been extended to 20 years after a victim's 18th birthday, the Vatican said Thursday.
The church, wracked in recent years by priest sex abuse scandals, also reclassified possession of child pornography, equating it with sexual abuse of children, Catholic News Service reported. That means priests proved to have used child pornography can be defrocked.
The changes were part of a revision of "Delicta Graviora," a document defining crimes against the church. The Rev. Federico Lombardi, a Vatican spokesman, said the changes on sexual abuse of minors put into law practices that have become common since molesting children became part of the delicta in 2001.
The revised document "makes a great contribution to the clarity and certainty of law in this field, a field in which the church is today strongly committed to proceeding with rigor and transparency," Lombardi said.
Since 2001, the church has granted many exceptions to the 10-year statute of limitations. Officials said the same thing might be done for the 20-year one.
Officials said the changes also include allowing immediate expulsion from the priesthood without a church trial in abuse cases where the charges are serious and guilt is clear.