Voice of the Faithful confident Pope Francis’ new rules will increase chances for bishop accountability

BOSTON, Mass., Jun. 7, 2016 – Pope Francis has issued new rules for bishop accountability that give the Voice of the Faithful Church reform movement hope that accountability for cover-ups may at last be applied.

With his motu proprio (apostolic letter) “Like a Loving Mother,” issued June 4, Pope Francis has refined the definition of harm that could be the basis for removing a bishop. In the letter’s preamble, he writes: “The Canon law already provides for the possibility of removal from office ecclesiastical ‘for serious reasons’ … In this letter I intend to point out that among those “grave reasons” includes the negligence of the bishops in the exercise of their office, in particular in relation to cases of sexual abuse of minors and vulnerable adults …”

The Pope’s letter stipulates that, “In all cases in which serious indications appear with the provisions preceding article, the competent authority of the Roman Curia Congregation can start an investigation …” The letter also calls for a “special college of jurists” to help the Pope decide the outcome of cases.

According to Vatican spokesman Rev. Federico Lombardi in reports of a statement he made, Pope Francis’ letter effectively lowers the standard for determining the removal of a bishop and four Vatican congregations now can initiate investigations: Congregation for Bishops, Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, Congregation for Oriental Churches and the Institutes for Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life.

When or whether we are going to see a bishop removed for cause is yet to be determined. The Pope’s new guidelines go into effect Sept. 5. Perhaps a good test, for example, would be how quickly the appropriate dicastery takes up the case of Archbishop John Myers, whom the Catholic Whistleblowers already have named in a case that was sent to the Vatican tribunal.

Voice of the Faithful®: Voice of the Faithful® is a worldwide movement of faithful Roman Catholics working to support survivors of clergy sexual abuse, support priests of integrity and increase the laity’s role in the governance and guidance of the Church. More information is at www.votf.org.

Contact: Nick Ingala, nickingala@votf.org, (781) 559-3360