Pope Francis makes Catholic bishops who cover up for paedophile priests accountable for first time with new tribunal system

The new mechanism will enable the Vatican to punish high-level cover-ups

Adam Withnall
Wednesday 10 June 2015 15:29
Comments
Pope Francis is pictured during his weekly general audience at St Peter's square on 10 June, 2015
Pope Francis is pictured during his weekly general audience at St Peter's square on 10 June, 2015

Pope Francis has taken a major step towards stamping out paedophilia in the Catholic Church, approving a new system of tribunals designed to make bishops accountable for the priests under them.

The new and unprecedented Vatican legal mechanism will hear the cases against bishops accused of covering up paedophile priests who abuse children on their watch.

The Church has previously faced criticism for failing to hold those in higher positions accountable for what goes on in their bishoprics.

The Vatican said Pope Francis was presented with the tribunal proposals by Cardinal Sean O’Malley, who he appointed as head of a new sex abuse advisory commission in December 2013.

Francis and his cardinal advisers approved the plans and allocated funding for full-time personnel to staff the new office.

The Vatican spokesman, Rev Federico Lombardi, said this means there is now a specific process by which the Vatican can deal with bishops who are negligent in handling cases of abuse in their territories.

Canon law already does provide sanctions for bishops who are negligent in their duties, but the Vatican has never been known to mete out punishment for a bishop who covered up for an abuser.

Previously, the closest Francis had come was in April, when he accepted the resignation of a US bishop found to have failed to report a suspected child abuser. But campaign groups were critical at the time, saying this did not carry the same weight as a forced dismissal.

A special new judicial section will be created inside the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith “to judge bishops with regard to crimes of the abuse of office when connected to the abuse of minors,” a Vatican statement said.

Speaking to reporters, Lombardi said now, with these proposals, “the process is defined”.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged in