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Vatican's tougher laws on abuse 'not Sharia': bishops daily

world Updated: Jul 16, 2010 20:55 IST

The Vatican's tougher rules on the handling of sex abuse cases are rigorous but not comparable to Islamic Sharia law, the official newspaper of Italy's bishops said Friday.

"Canon law is not some kind of Sharia, (since) punishments, even the harshest ones like excommunication, are of a spiritual nature," Avvenire wrote in a front page editorial the day after the Vatican unveiled the new rules.

"The harshness of the current norms is a very strong signal of how serious certain moral betrayals are," Avvenire said.

Announcing new rules in a bid to fend off accusations of complacency amid a worldwide priest paedophilia scandal, the Roman Catholic Church said Thursday it would accelerate internal investigations and extend by a decade the statute of limitations in sex abuse cases.

The new steps provide for referring the "most serious cases" to the pope, in a codification of an already existing disciplinary recourse.

And for the first time, a priest may be defrocked through an "extra judicial decree" effectively without a hearing.

"This hard and resolute warning is a strong signal, a great lesson in responsibility, with all of the strength of faith," Avvenire said.

Paedophile priest scandals and allegations of high level cover ups that swept Australia and the United States in 2004 have surged again since last year and rocked the Catholic Church in Europe and the United States.

Under strict Sharia law, adulterers are stoned to death and theft is punishable by the amputation of hands.