With continuing stories of bishops covering up child molestation by priests in Australia and Ireland and elsewhere and now a criminal indictment against the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis, Pope Francis has belatedly realized that the Church's failure to act against bishops who aided and abetted sexual predatory priests is only worsening the loss of membership the Church is experiencing. Hence the creation of a tribunal to judge such bishops. Whether or not any real discipline will take place is, of course another story. Only time will tell if this is merely a PR stunt. Talking Points Memo looks at the development. Here are highlights:
Pope Francis has created a new Vatican tribunal section to hear cases of bishops accused of failing to protect children from sexually abusive priests, the biggest step the Holy See has taken yet to hold bishops accountable.For years, the Vatican has been criticized by victims, advocacy groups and others for having failed to ever punish or forcibly remove a bishop who covered up for clergy who raped or molested children. In April, Francis accepted the resignation of a U.S. bishop who had been convicted of failing to report a suspected child abuser, but that wasn't a forced removal.The Vatican said Wednesday that Francis had approved proposals made by his sexual abuse advisory board. They create a mechanism by which the Vatican can receive and examine complaints of abuse of office by bishops and adjudicate them.A special new judicial section will be created inside the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith "to judge bishops with regard to crimes of the abuse of office when connected to the abuse of minors," a Vatican statement said. The Congregation currently reviews all cases of priests who abuseminors.
Canon law already does provide sanctions for bishops who are negligent in their duties, but the Vatican was never known to have meted out punishment for a bishop who covered up for an abuser.