Papal commission member hints at new ways of firing bishops

New mechanisms could soon be proposed to remove prelates who don’t follow Church guidelines on preventing and reporting abuse of children.

A member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, Marie Collins, said accountability of bishops is her main priority in this role.

The 17 member commission met in Rome over the weekend.

Ms Collins, an abuse survivor from Ireland, hinted the commission might be suggesting to Pope Francis that there be new mechanisms for firing Catholic prelates.

Asked by the National Catholic Reporter about the fact that only the Pope can remove bishops, Ms Collins interrupted the question to say: “Currently, yes.”

“All I can say is the commission is working on a means by which bishops can be made accountable,” Ms Collins added.

“And if that goes forward . . . there will be an answer to this problem.”

The commission’s head, Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston, said recommendations will go to the Pope about consequences for bishops who don’t follow guidelines on preventing and reporting abuse.

The cardinal said the commission has yet to recommend specifically what those repercussions might be.

But he added: “Obviously, there has to be consequences.”

Cardinal O’Malley also said the commission has also been tasked with presenting methods for “measuring compliance” of bishops’ conferences on the issue.

Ms Collins wants to see action in this area too.

“You can have as many guidelines as you like in place, but if the men that are supposed to be implementing don’t implement them, there has to be some sanction or you’re wasting your time,” she said.

Ms Collins admitted to feeling frustration about how slow the commission’s work has been so far.

English abuse survivor and commission member Peter Saunders said he would be leaving the commission in a year or two if it did not achieve some sort of accountability of bishops.

In 2011, the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith called on bishops’ conferences to develop guidelines on preventing and reporting abuse.

Cardinal O’Malley said that about four per cent, primarily those in mission areas, have yet to do so.


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