New Vatican department to deal with abuse cover ups

By Patsy Mcgarry
Irish Times
June 10, 2015

Pope Francis has created a new Vatican tribunal within the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) to deal with bishops who fail to protect children from being sexually abused by priests.

The announcement in Rome on Wednesday is seen as unpredendented and as a major success for the Vatican’s new Commission for the Protection of Minors.

The new office will be able to hold bishops to account for mishandling or covering up allegations of clerical child sex abuse. It will act as a tribunal to pass judgement on accused bishops “with regard to crimes of the abuse of office when connected to the abuse of minors.”

To date no Catholic bishop has been removed from office by the Vatican for his role in covering up clerical child sex abuse. Following publication in November 2009 of the Murphy report, which investigated the cover up of clerical child sex abuse in Dublin’s Catholic Archdiocese, the resignations of two Irish bishops were accepted by Rome. Prior to that, the resignation of Bishop of Ferns Brendan Comiskey in 2002, and in similar circumstances, was also accepted by Rome.

In April Pope Francis accepted the resignation of US Bishop of Kansas - St Joseph Robert Finn who had been convicted in the courts of failing to report clerical child sex abuse.

The announcement that Pope Francis had approved the setting up of a Vatican department to deal with bishops accused of covering up, or not preventing sexual abuse of minors, has long been sought by victims’ groups.

A Vaticanstatement said the new department would come under the auspices of the CDF and would“judge bishops with regard to crimes of the abuse of office when connected to the abuse of minors”.

Vatican spokesman Fr Federico Lombardi said although removing a bishop could only be done by Pope Francis, he [THE POPE]would be guided by the decision of those he appointed to the new tribunal.

Fr Lombardi told reporters complaints against bishops would be initially investigated by one of three Vatican departments, depending on under whose jurisdiction the bishops fall, before being judged by the CDF department.

The Vatican said Pope Francis had approved proposals made to him by the Commission for the Protection of Minors, part of whose role is to help dioceses put in place “best practices” to prevent abuse and work with victims in a process of healing.

Fr Lombardi said the Pope had approved proposals for the new tribunal following unanimous agreement on Monday among the nine-member Council of Cardinals which advising him.

The new bishops’ accountability system contains five directives which are to be established initially for a five-year period.

The first states that there is a “duty” to report “allegations of the abuse of office by a bishop connected to the abuse of minors” to the Vatican, specifically the three congregations which oversee bishops. These are the Congregation for Bishops, the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, and the Congregation for the Oriental Churches.

The second gives power to the CDF to pass judgement on bishops, and the third calls for the creation of a new judicial section in that Congregation along with the appointment of “stable personnel to undertake service in the Tribunal.”

The fourth obliges the Pope to appoint a new secretary, or second-in-command, for the CDF to head the tribunal and to work with the Congregation’s prefect, ardinal Gerhard Muller.

The fifth establishes the five-year period “for further development of these proposals and for completing a formal evaluation of their effectiveness”.

Dublin abuse survivor Marie Collins is a member of the Commission which includes eight women and is chaired by the Archbishop of Boston Cardinal Séan O’Malley.

In February, Pope Francis advised bishops around the world to cooperate with the Commission as a matter of priority, to root out “the scourge” of sexual abuse even if it unearths new scandals.


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