Pope makes plan to sack bishops negligent on abuse

Pope Francis has issued a new law specifying that a bishop’s negligence with regard to clergy sexual abuse can lead to removal from office.

In a motu proprio released on Saurday, the Pope empowered several Vatican dicasteries to investigate such bishops and initiate processes of removal, subject to papal approval.

In a preamble to the motu proprio, Francis noted that the canon law “already foresees the possibility of removal from the ecclesial office ‘for grave causes’”.

The Pope wrote that “grave causes” now includes “negligence of bishops in the exercise of their office, particularly relative to cases of sexual abuse against minors and vulnerable adults”.

The ruling applies to bishops, eparchs or heads of religious communities.

The relevant Roman congregations can start an investigation if negligence by such figures caused “physical, moral, spiritual or patrimonial” harm.

There can be a legitimate removal from office if such a person “has by negligence, place or omitted acts caused serious harm to others, whether their physical persons or the community as a whole”.

“The diocesan bishop or eparch can be removed only if he has objectively been lacking in a very grave manner the diligence that is required of his pastoral office,” the document continued.

“In the case of abuse against minors or vulnerable adults it is sufficient that the lacking of diligence be grave,” it was specified.

Those subject to such a process will be able to defend themselves.

A “special association of legal experts“ will help the Pope in making final decisions in such cases.

The Vatican stated that it is foreseen that such an association will be composed of cardinals and bishops.

The new law takes effect on September 5.

Marie Collins, a member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors and an abuse survivor, said she welcomes the new procedures.

She said she hopes they bring accountability, but the important thing is the implementation.

The Vatican said the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is not among the dicasteries that will conduct investigations covered by the motu proprio.

This is because the offences involve negligence of office, not crimes of abuse itself.

Last year it was announced that the Pope had approved the creation of a new tribunal in the CDF to judge bishops “with regard to crimes of the abuse of office when connected to the abuse of minors”.

But thus far no personnel have been appointed to this body.

The Associated Press reported that this tribunal was scrapped after it ran into opposition and the Pope instead opted to clarify legal procedures.


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