New rules for Bishops arrived in the Catholic Church yesterday as Pope Francis issued an Apostolic Letter in the form of a Motu Proprio, or a document that has been officially signed by the Pope.
The letter, titled “Come una madre amorevole,” or “As a Loving Mother,” establishes procedure that will help the church prosecute higher up members, using legislation already introduced into canon law — otherwise known as ecclesiastical law, or the law which has been set forth by proclamations made by the Pope — which covers those who may be involved in the muffling of sexual abuse cases — especially those involving children — by some of their priests.
Radio Vatican’s website said that the new procedures will take effect on September 5 of this year, and showed a note which was left by Father Federico Lombardi, who is the Director of the Holy See Press Office.
“The Apostolic Letter insists on the importance of vigilant care for the protection of minors and vulnerable adults, calling for a ‘particular diligence.’ It clarifies that negligence regarding cases of sexual abuse committed against children or vulnerable adults are among the ‘grave causes’ that justify removal from ecclesiastical offices, even of Bishops.”
New rules for Bishops aren’t something that everyone thinks will help however, as USA Today reported that SNAP — Survivor Networks for those Abused by Priests — has declared their suspicion by stating that they doubt this decision will end up in any actual Bishops losing their jobs, and that Popes have always had the power to do this but never have before. The same USA Today article made clear that the new rules for Bishops were recommended by the Pope’s sex abuse advisory board, citing that since the board was responsible for overseeing cases involving clergy accused of sexual abuse, then it should also be involved in the internal prosecution of those higher-ups who may be trying to keep everything quiet.
One has to wonder however if SNAP is correct in their thinking that members who are already established may be spared a purge from within the church. This is because the new rules state that for a Bishop to be be removed from office over a sexual abuse case they must show a lack of diligence with or without “grave moral fault,” and that the wording later goes on to say that the “sufficient lack of diligence must be grave.” These are pretty vague ways to put things, and depending on who is doing the interpreting of these laws, who knows what the outcome might be.
Only that which happens in the coming months and years will tell us if the Catholic Church is to be headed in a new direction from its current trajectory, and while the wording may be somewhat spotty this current pope doesn’t seem to be, as Pope Francis has been one of the church’s the strongest advocates against sexual abuse out of any Pope in recent history, and in September of last year, the Guardian even quoted him as saying the following.
“I remain overwhelmed with shame that men entrusted with the tender care of children violated these little ones and caused grievous harm. I am profoundly sorry. God weeps.”
After becoming the Pope back in 2013, Pope Francis accepted the resignation of the so-called “Bishop of bling,” who was accused of large amounts of egregious spending on things like his home — of which the Washington Post reported he spent an approximate $43 million in church money on — and that when asked about the large sums of money spent on it, said that he wasn’t qualified to know how much it cost to build things.
These new laws for Bishops are a step in the right direction, though, and shows that the Catholic Church is starting to acknowledge their problem of sexual abuse and make attempts to try and root out those within its walls that have been involved in scandal. We can only hope that in the coming months and years the proclamation made by the Pope yesterday doesn’t turn out to be exactly what SNAP fears it might be: an empty promise.
[Photo by Andrea Bonetti/Greek Prime Minister’s Office/Getty Images]