Transfers fuel doubts about Vatican’s line on sex abuse and US nuns

In the small world of the Vatican, personnel is always policy. Two recent personnel moves, therefore, have fueled speculation about whether policy shifts are also under way in the fight against sex abuse and the Vatican’s relationship with American nuns.

Msgr. Charles Scicluna, the Vatican’s top prosecutor on abuse cases, was named an auxiliary bishop in his native Malta on Oct. 8. On Thursday, the pope was also set to name American Archbishop Joseph Tobin, the Vatican’s leading voice for reconciliation with women religious, as the new archbishop of Indianapolis.

The question now is whether the positions these two figures represent are also on the way out. Some are reading their departures as classic cases of promoveatur ut amoveatur, meaning promoting someone to get rid of them and, by extension, their ideas. Vatican officials say it’s not so, insisting there are more effective ways of muzzling someone than the new gigs both men are getting.

Especially with Tobin, it’s hard not to see office politics at work. He’s only served as secretary of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life (popularly known as the Congregation for Religious) since August 2010, while Vatican officials normally have at least a five-year term. When rumors of his move to Indianapolis heated up in October, several commentators speculated it was related to his “soft” line on religious women in the United States.

Italian commentator Marco Tosatti wrote Oct. 1 that some in the U.S. church “did not appreciate Tobin’s role in clearing up misunderstandings with ‘rebel’ nuns. American bishops did not find his conciliatory statements very helpful as they were hard at work trying to resolve a difficult problem.”

“They saw his attitude as a break with the position taken by the previous prefect [of the Congregation for Religious], Cardinal Franc Rode, who was concerned about the ‘new age’ drift of many U.S. nuns,” Tosatti wrote.  Continue reading

Image: Indiana Public Media

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