The Twitterverse is suddenly agog at the news that the age of sexual consent in Vatican City is 12. That’s because Catholic priests are all pedos, right?! And yet, how can such a thing possibly be the case without having already been exposed?
The problem started when this link started to get passed round: http://www.avert.org/age-of-consent.htm?12
It says the law of consent for the Vatican is 12.
That’s misleading for several reasons, not least:
1) The law came from the old Italian Codic Penal code, a civil law that Vatican State inherited in 1929. At the time, Italian law stated at the age of consent was 12.
2) It is an arcane law and not enforceable today UPDATE: I called the Vatican Embassy to confirm it’s not enforceable, but they are not there til Monday morning.
3) Even if it was, the law only applies to citizens of Vatican State, which is 824 people.
4) All 824 citizens are prelates and guards. No children are citizens of Vatican State, and never have been. UPDATE: Thanks to @madgestar for pointing out that the citizenship can be extended to children. That does not mean you can legally have sex with them though! Here’s a list of all the current citizens.
UPDATE: 5) Still looking into this, but some sources (none primary, so far) say that the law may only have applied (still does apply?) to citizens of equal age.
UPDATE: 6) This page (odd NZ conservative website) says that Italian law still applies:
“From what I can determine, the source of this information comes from the Wikipedia page listing the age of consent for all countries around the worldÂ [ref]. It argues that once these laws came into existence in 1929, they were fixed from then on. This is not so. The pact allowed for the laws of Italy, as they changed, to continually apply to the Vatican. Currently, this age is 14/16. Specifically:
The age of consent in Italy is 14 years, with a close-in-age exception that allows those aged 13 to engage in sexual activity with partners who are less than 3 years older. The age of consent rises to 16 if one of the participants has some kind of influence on the other (e.g. teacher, tutor, biological or adoptive parent)”
UPDATE: 7) In trying to confirm the above, it seems that the 1929 treaty was updated in 1984, so that may help shed some light on whether general Italian law applies in this case rather than the archaic law. The original treaty “also allowed for the use of Italian law as well as provincial and municipal Roman law when they did not conflict with canon law, the rules of the Lateran Treaty (and, later, the 1984 Concordat), or divine law.” from here.
Further to point 6, this BBC article confirms that in 2009 the Vatican did indeed decide to divorce itself from general Italian law, so that new Italian laws would no longer automatically apply. They’re worried about new Italian laws like letting homosexuals marry, so they elected to opt out entirely. If ‘new’ Italian laws automatically apply to the Vatican, then that would include the updated age of consent laws, which are currently 14. Not much better than 12, but still.
This is what I was expecting the Embassy to confirm, but we’ll have to wait til Monday to know for sure.
Can we stop the OMGing now? Thanks.
EDIT: because this was an emergency debunking, I may update it as I get more info. I have read in a couple of places that the law was updated at some point to 14, but can’t find a decent source for that. Either way it’s still an arcane law.