New Proposal for Dealing with Abusive Bishops

The Church has just floated a trial balloon: “Cardinal Wuerl proposes national panel to investigate allegations against bishops.” The cardinal proposes that the Church forms a new committee of bishops to investigate accused bishops. Naturally, they cannot be given the authority to act, so their conclusions with be forwarded to the Vatican: “it seems to me there has to be some mechanism in the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith [CDF] or in the Congregation for Bishops to evaluate any concern that a conference of bishops might have about one of its members.”

But complaints about abusive bishops have been going to the CDF since at least the papacy of John Paul. The new proposal simply adds another bureaucratic group to the already-lengthy bureaucratic process, creating further delays. Furthermore, it is part of the old boys’ club - bishops judging other bishops. There are no independent judges.

It is possible that a group of bishops might provide useful input to the Vatican. But nearly twenty years ago, when the council of US bishops was drawing up procedures for dealing with the child abuse epidemic, they specifically exempted bishops from the process. This new trial balloon simple reverses their prior rejection of such a proposal. It is indicative of the lack of progress the Church has made in dealing with this atrocity.

When Pope Francis took office, the child abuse problem had reached crisis proportions. To deal with the crisis, Pope Francis created a new papal commission to study the problem and make recommendations. This committee accomplished virtually nothing, leading to protests by the victims who had been appointed to it. But it did succeed in buying Pope Francis four years of peace. Now, faced with surging worldwide protests against his failure to deal with the scandal, the Vatican is proposing another new committee. With any luck, it may buy them a few more years of peacefully avoiding the problem.


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