‘Metropolitan model’ may not answer question of abusive bishops


March 1, 2019

By Charles Collins

After the conclusion of the unprecedented Vatican summit on child abuse last week, one issue that was repeated was “accountability.” However, despite this mantra, the problem of what to do with bishops who have themselves been accused of abuse remains.

Right now, bishops can be judged by the pope alone. Although a special tribunal to handle accusations against bishops was authorized by Pope Francis, he later backtracked and decided to use specially constituted bodies in cases against bishops.

The U.S. bishops had proposed a plan to constitute a special lay review panel to receive and investigate complaints against bishops, but the Vatican squashed the idea, saying there was not enough time to review it in Rome and overcome the difficulties of reconciling the plan with Church law.

However, a plan by one U.S. archbishop to give more power to archbishops in dealing with accusations against members of the hierarchy looks like it is gaining favor in Rome.

The so-called “metropolitan model” was first suggested by Cardinal Blase J. Cupich of Chicago during the USCCB meeting in November, after the vote on the original plan of a national lay review board was stopped by the Vatican.

Cupich gave more details of the proposal on Feb. 22, during a press conference at the Vatican summit.

Basically, the metropolitan archbishop – now a largely symbolic role – would be in charge of investigating abuse complaints against the bishops in his territory, called a province.

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