Pope Francis speaks to families during the Festival of Families in Croke Park stadium in Dublin Aug. 25. CNS photo/Paul Haring

Editorial: It’s time for action

By 
  • August 29, 2018

“We showed no care for the little ones,” wrote Pope Francis. “We abandoned them.”

 Truer words have seldom been pronounced by this or any Pope.  But that’s all they will be — mere words — unless followed in the coming days and weeks by substantial initiatives to address the type of predatory behaviour revealed by a Pennsylvania grand jury which found that 301 priests abused children and teens for decades and had their evil concealed by bishops. That report followed separate allegations of senior Church officials covering up years of sexual misconduct by ex-American cardinal Theodore McCarrick.

 The Vatican hierarchy has spent a quarter century offering apologies and expressing sorrow for a shamefully long list of these types of crimes. Numerous steps have been taken around the world to better protect the vulnerable, compensate victims and punish abuser priests.  As hard sometimes as it is to believe, things are better today.

But clearly it’s not enough. The Pennsylvania wickedness, coming amid other scandals involving cardinals and bishops, highlight the need to go further and enact measures to hold accountable members of the Church’s upper hierarchy who betray their vows or turn a blind eye when others do. Policing the conduct of bishops and cardinals is a papal responsibility. So this task falls to Pope Francis.

Three years ago, the Pope approved sweeping new protocols to deal specifically with bishops. He proposed the creation of a tribunal to be staffed with trained experts to investigate and judge bishops accused of abuse of office. It was a great idea, but the tribunal was never implemented, apparently a victim of resistance in the Vatican bureaucracy.

It’s time now to dust off that blueprint and give it even sharper teeth to eviscerate an evil that, as Halifax Bishop Anthony Mancini said, “goes deeper than imagined.” If the Church is ever to succeed in regaining the trust and moral authority crippled by decades of scandals and coverups, it must create — not just talk about — an authentic culture of accountability. There is currently no independent office managed by permanent, trained professionals to deal with accusations against bishops and cardinals. It’s time to create one.

This new office should be heavy with laity who are experienced in conducting investigations and in following judicial processes. It should receive adequate resources and operate at arm’s length from the Vatican. It should have a confidential means for people to report inappropriate behaviour and to liaise with police in situations of alleged criminality. It should have the authority to reach verdicts and recommend punishments, which ultimately are for the Pope to impose.

Existing protocols to deal with bad bishops are not only inadequate, they have contributed to the Church’s current shame. Something much better is needed — now. For the sake of the little ones.

Comments (2)

  1. Joanvspratt

If pedophilia and sexual abuse are criminal acts then all of these acts should be reported directly to civil authorities. Setting up another commission is doomed to failure. I do not trust any in the Vatican or any group they would appoint to...

If pedophilia and sexual abuse are criminal acts then all of these acts should be reported directly to civil authorities. Setting up another commission is doomed to failure. I do not trust any in the Vatican or any group they would appoint to be credible. I, myself, have informed all Catholic entities that I will no longer contribute to their organizations until or unless the Vatican allows the civil authorities to handle all accusations of sexual abuse. Why should any Catholic pay for the sexual abuse and or cover-up by the clergy. I have not lost my faith but I have lost all confidence in the Vatican's actions for the last 25 years in dealing with sexual abuse and cover ups of these horrific crimes.

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  1. Jim

Suggestion: The problem symptoms are typical of large organizations that lack "operational auditing". The problem starts in the region and is covered up by regional management to protect the local management as well as members of the "boy's...

Suggestion: The problem symptoms are typical of large organizations that lack "operational auditing". The problem starts in the region and is covered up by regional management to protect the local management as well as members of the "boy's club". Eventually it blows up and the regional problem is transferred to the central management (Vatican) to deal with the public relations problem. The organization suffers from an inability to "nip things in the bud". And can only react, well after the events (years in this case).

The Church needs to implement operational auditing at the parish level together with strategy that monitors standards of operations that make for a good parish. This will assure executive compliance and reduce the number of out of control groups. Areas include child safety, demonstrating the "heart of Jesus", demonstrating an outward community focus to bring Jesus to more than just Mass attenders (Evangelism), demonstrating projects and programs that enhance congregational experience (community oriented projects that demonstrate Christ to the community), demonstrating good management and fiscal practice, etc.

The auditors report to the Pope and College of Cardinals (like a board of directors) to ensure peer compliance and censor.

Until professional management is implemented, there will be regional problems due to a tendency of executives to cover-up their tracks and we can expect more of the same lingering problems.

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