Pope Creates Tribunal To Judge Bishop Child Sex Abuse Cases

Pope Francis, center, meets with members of the Vatican tribunal, Roman Rota, on the occasion of the opening of the judicial year at the Vatican, Friday, Jan. 23, 2015. (AP Photo/L'Osservatore Romano, Pool)
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VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis has created a new Vatican tribunal section to hear cases of bishops accused of failing to protect children from sexually abusive priests, the biggest step the Holy See has taken yet to hold bishops accountable.

For years, the Vatican has been criticized by victims, advocacy groups and others for having failed to ever punish or forcibly remove a bishop who covered up for clergy who raped or molested children. In April, Francis accepted the resignation of a U.S. bishop who had been convicted of failing to report a suspected child abuser, but that wasn’t a forced removal.

The Vatican said Wednesday that Francis had approved proposals made by his sexual abuse advisory board. They create a mechanism by which the Vatican can receive and examine complaints of abuse of office by bishops and adjudicate them.

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.

The Congregation currently reviews all cases of priests who abuse minors.

The Vatican said Cardinal Sean O’Malley, the head of Francis’ sex abuse advisory commission, presented the proposals to Francis’ cardinal advisers, who have been meeting this week. The panel approved the measures, as did Francis, who authorized funding for full-time personnel to staff the new office, the Vatican said.

The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said this means there is now a specific process by which theVatican 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 was never known to have meted out punishment for a bishop who covered up for an abuser.

Now, with these proposals, “the process is defined,” Lombardi said.


Associated Press writer Daniela Petroff contributed.

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Notable Replies

  1. Failure to report child sexual abuse is a crime in this country. No dog-and-pony tribunal needed - Just hand them over to the police, like they should have been doing with the priests themselves all along.

  2. Fine as far as it goes, but this ain’t the only country with Catholics.

    Also, there’s a statute of limitations problem. And there are many jurisdictions where prosecution of third-parties for non-reporting just won’t happen, let alone prosecution of a bishop.

    We should get our house in order. I’m glad Francis appears to believe likewise about his house.

  3. I hope they can remove Archbishop John Nienstedt of the MN Twin Cities Diocese. The scandals keep on coming, and he refuses calls for his resignation, stating the pope (John Paul II) made him a bishop, and the pope will be the one to remove him. Make it so!

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