After vowing to prosecute child predator priests in a Vatican tribunal, Pope Francis walked back the idea and instead reinforced already existing procedures – procedures which so far have failed catastrophically.
The Washington Post reports that news of the scrapped idea comes as a great disappointment to victims and their families who were looking forward to seeing clergy be held accountable for shielding pedophiles.
Francis and his nine cardinal advisers approved the proposal to great fanfare last June, pledging to provide the tribunal section with adequate staffing and resources. As recently as March, Francis’ chief adviser on sex abuse, Cardinal Sean O’Malley, said he was confident the proposal would go through and that a new secretary would be named for the congregation to run it.
But the tribunal posed a host of legal and bureaucratic issues and ran into opposition from bishops and the Vatican bureaucracy.
In the end, Francis appears to have backed off and instead reminded the four Vatican offices that already handle bishop issues that they were also responsible for investigating and punishing negligence cases. The new law makes clear that a negligent act or omission on handling an abuse allegation was grounds for dismissal.
@Pontifex But let’s keep being wishy-washy when it comes to holding bishops who shield child rapists accountable.
— Sky Palma (@DeadStateTweets) June 5, 2016
Since 2004, there have been 3,400 cases of church-related child sex abuse which resulted in the defrocking of 848 priests, but the Pope’s initial proposal was met with opposition from factions inside the Vatican – many of whom probably would have been the target of the tribunal.
But that proposal posed a host of legal and bureaucratic issues and ran into opposition from bishops and the Vatican bureaucracy. In the end, Francis backed off and instead essentially reminded the four Vatican offices that already handle bishop issues that they were also responsible for investigating and punishing negligence cases involving abuse.
It will be interesting to see how the Pope keeps up his progressive bona fides, considering that he seems unwilling to make protecting children from rape non-negotiable.
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