Scep­ti­cism over pope’s de­cree

New law il­lus­trates a zero-tol­er­ance ap­proach to any­one in the church who abuses chil­dren

CityPress - - News -

Apa­pal de­cree re­leased yesterday says bish­ops found to be “neg­li­gent” when deal­ing with cases of sex­ual abuse will be in­ves­ti­gated and could be re­moved from of­fice. Pope Fran­cis has pledged zero tol­er­ance of any­one in the church who abuses chil­dren, and likened such abuse to a “sa­tanic mass”. In 2014, he es­tab­lished a Vat­i­can com­mis­sion to set best prac­tices to root out abuse in parishes.

With the de­cree, he puts into ac­tion what he promised last year when he ap­proved a Vat­i­can tri­bunal to judge bish­ops ac­cused of cov­er­ing up or fail­ing to prevent abuse of mi­nors.

Vic­tims’ groups have re­peat­edly de­manded that the Catholic Church do more to make bish­ops ac­count­able for abuse in their dio­ce­ses, even if they were not di­rectly re­spon­si­ble for it.

David Clo­hessy, di­rec­tor of the Survivors Net­work of those Abused by Priests, re­mained scep­ti­cal about the church’s re­sponse.

“In­stead of just sack­ing bad bish­ops, or turn­ing over abuse records to law en­force­ment, the Vat­i­can is set­ting up yet an­other untested, in­ter­nal church ‘process’ to pur­port­edly deal with bish­ops who ig­nore or con­ceal child sex crimes,” he said. “A ‘process’ is help­ful only if it’s used of­ten enough to de­ter wrong­do­ing. We doubt this one will.”

The Ro­man Catholic Church has been rocked over the past 15 years by scan­dals con­cern­ing priests who sex­u­ally abused chil­dren and were trans­ferred from parish to parish in­stead of be­ing turned over to au­thor­i­ties and de­frocked. In some de­vel­oped coun­tries, par­tic­u­larly in the US, the church has paid tens of mil­lions of dol­lars in set­tle­ments.

While a bishop can al­ready lose his job un­der the ex­ist­ing canon­i­cal code for any “grave rea­sons”, the pope said he wanted to spec­ify with the de­cree that such rea­sons in­cluded in­stances where bish­ops fail to tackle abuse cases ad­e­quately.

Bish­ops “must be par­tic­u­larly dili­gent in pro­tect­ing those who are the weak­est among the peo­ple en­trusted to them,” the pope said in the de­cree.

He said a bishop could be re­moved from of­fice if he has, “through neg­li­gence, ex­e­cuted or omit­ted acts that caused se­ri­ous harm to oth­ers”, be it phys­i­cal, moral, spir­i­tual or fi­nan­cial.

Any re­moval de­ci­sion has to be ap­proved by the pope, who will be as­sisted by a group of le­gal ad­vis­ers.

– Reuters

PHOTO: ALESSANDRO BIANCHI

TURN­ING THE TIDE Pope Fran­cis

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