Pope Francis sent another message to Vatican-based cardinals and bishops about his intention to hold them accountable for criminal misconduct: He removed the legal obstacles that had prevented the Vatican’s criminal tribunal from prosecuting them.
A new law published Friday makes clear that Vatican city-state prosecutors have jurisdiction over cardinals and bishops and need only the pope's approval to proceed with investigations against them.
The law abrogated a regulation, upheld as recently as last year, that said only the tribunal's highest appeals court, which is composed of three cardinal judges, could assess the actions of cardinals and bishops accused of criminal offenses.
The reform is the latest sign that after eight years of preaching about ending corruption and other criminal activity in the Holy See, Francis is taking concrete steps to hold his own cardinals and bishops accountable.
On Thursday, Pope passed a different law forcing Vatican superiors to declare their finances are clean, and set a 40-euro (USD 48) cap on work-related personal gifts received by any Vatican employee. The gift cap was seen as a way to cut down on the rampant practice of financial gift-giving to Holy See clerics and the chance that such money could grease favours.
Friday's reform follows Francis' decision last year to strip a senior Vatican official, Cardinal Angelo Becciu, of his rights and privileges as a cardinal in a move seen as laying the groundwork for Becciu to possibly be put on trial.