Pope Francis has abolished the use of the Vatican's highest level of secrecy in clergy sexual abuse cases. 

Victims and their advocates say the move to get rid of the pontifical secrecy rule was long overdue. But they cautioned that proof of its effectiveness would come when the Catholic hierarchy is forced to respond to inquiries, grand jury subpoenas and prosecutors who want all internal documentation about abusers. 

Francis had faced criticism that the high level of confidentiality on abuse cases has been used to protect pedophiles, silence victims and keep law enforcement from investigating.

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Earlier this month, a man claimed in a lawsuit in New Jersey that he had told Pope John Paul II in 1988 about being sexually abused as a child by the priest who would become Cardinal Theodore McCarrick but that the Vatican did nothing. The Archdiocese of Newark said it is reviewing the allegations. An attorney for McCarrick says he can't yet comment. In the past, McCarrick has denied Grein's allegations. McCarrick was defrocked in February after a church investigation concluded he had committed acts against children and adults. 

Vatican Pope
FILE: Pope Francis speaks at the Vatican, in the San Damaso courtyard, on Saturday, June 8, 2019. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)