Monday, June 06, 2016

Pope Issues Apostolic Letter On Procedure For Removal of Bishops In Abuse Cases

In the Vatican on Saturday, Pope Francis issued motu proprio (i.e. on his own initiative) an Apostolic Letter (full text in Italian) establishing a procedure for the removal of Bishops (and those of equivalent Canon Law rank) who through their negligence have caused grave harm to others. The Letter titled Come una madre amorevole ("As a Loving Mother") clarifies that negligence in cases of sexual abuse against children or vulnerable adults are among the "grave causes" that justify removal.  Vatican Radio reports:
Father Lombardi [Director of the Holy See Press Office] drew attention especially to two points in the Apostolic Letter. First, the “lack of diligence” necessary for removal from office can exist even be “without grave moral fault” on the part of the Bishop.
Second, in cases concerning the abuse of minors “it is sufficient that the lack of diligence be ‘grave,’ while in other cases it is required that the lack of diligence be ‘very grave’.” This effectively lowers the standard necessary for a Bishop to be removed from office when there is negligence with regard to cases of sexual abuse.
In cases involving important decisions regarding Bishops, including those foreseen in the Apostolic Letter, the specific approval of the Holy Father is necessary. Father Lombardi noted that this is not a new disposition.
However, the Apostolic Letter does introduce a new “dedicated College of jurists” (It.: “apposito Collegio di giuristi"), which will assist the Holy Father before he makes a definitive decision. Father Lombardi said the College would be expected to be composed of Cardinals and Bishops.
[Thanks to Tom Rutledge for the lead.]

UPDATE: Victim advocates are skeptical of the new policy. (Statement by SNAP.)