The Vatican has sent yet another signal that no action will be taken against bishops and cardinals who aided and abetted and covered up for sexual predator priests who preyed on children and youths. Pope Francis has now scraped the tribunal that was purportedly going to try cases of bishops and cardinals involved in cover ups or worse. In its place, Francis has outlined a supposed new rule that would allow bishops to be removed from office - a power that Francis and his predecessors have always held but failed to use. The take away? Expect nothing to be done and more crocodile tears. Talking Points Memo looks at the development. Here are excerpts:
Pope Francis on Saturday scrapped his proposed tribunal to prosecute bishops who covered up for pedophile priests after it ran into opposition and instead clarified legal procedures to remove them if the Vatican finds they were negligent.
The new procedures sought to answer long-standing demands by survivors of abuse that the Vatican hold bishops accountable for botching abuse cases. Victims have long accused bishops of covering up for pedophiles, moving rapists from parish to parish rather than reporting them to police — and suffering no consequences.
But the new law was immediately criticized by survivors of abuse as essentially window dressing since there were already ways to investigate and dismiss bishops for wrongdoing — they were just rarely used against bishops who failed to protect their flocks from pedophiles.
Analysts suggested the new law was much ado about very little.
The main U.S. victims' group, SNAP, said it was "extraordinarily skeptical" that the new procedures would amount to any wave of dismissals since popes have always had the power to oust bishops but haven't wielded it.
"A 'process' is helpful only if it's used often enough to deter wrongdoing. We doubt this one will be," SNAP's David Clohessy said.
In the law, Francis acknowledged that the church's canonical code already allowed for a bishop to be removed for "grave reasons." But he said he wanted to precisely state that negligence in handling abuse cases counted as one of those reasons.
In the law, Francis said a bishop can be removed if his actions or omissions cause "grave harm" — physical, moral, spiritual or financial — to individuals or communities. The bishop himself doesn't need to be morally guilty. It's enough if he is purely lacking in the diligence required of his office.
The procedures call for the Vatican to start an investigation when "serious evidence" is provided that a bishop was negligent. The bishop can defend himself. At the end of the investigation, the Vatican can prepare a decree removing the bishop or ask him to resign.
Any decision to remove the bishop must first be approved by the pope, who will be advised by legal experts, the law says.