More smoke and mirrors?

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Probably most have by now heard or read of the new motu proprio issued by Pope Frances  which apparently establishes new norms regarding the removal of bishops who failed to act appropriately in cases of clerical sexual predators.  Here are two articles, the first being from Vatican Radio:

04 June 2016:  “Pope issues motu proprio on removal of Bishops” & related article

I don’t understand why this news was released before an official English translation of the entire document has been made available.  It is, after all,  a known fact that the numbers of victims of clerical sexual abuse in the English speaking world are legion, and equally known is the fact that countless children and youth in the English speaking world were sexually molested by clergy after the bishop was made aware that a particular priest was a molester.  In other words, countless children were sexually violated and had their souls raped by a priest because a bishop – or a religious superior – failed to act.

I truly would like to see that document in its entirety and situate these norms in context.  I get the impression that the motu proprio addresses other matters.  I am curious, but, like other English-speaking Catholics around the world, unfortunately shall have to wait.

That said, I am puzzled.  Truly puzzled by these new norms.

Why the word “negligence”?

Does allowing a known clerical sexual predator continued  access to children and/or youth boil down to negligence?

Does deliberately lying to and/or deceiving the Catholic faithful when recycling a known clerical sexual predator boil down to “negligence”?  Really?!

Who determines what constitutes “grave harm”?   if there are no reports of further victims after a predatory priest has been recycled do the ‘experts’ deem there was no ‘grave” harm done?  or of the spiritual damage done is known to apply ‘only’ to the loss of faith of the victim and his or her family, does that mean there was no “grave” harm?

And then, this.  according to Vatican Radio, Father Frederico Lombardi,  Director of the Holy See Press Office has said that the new process for removing a ‘negligent’ bishop is not a penal procedure,  because ‘it concerns cases of negligence, rather than with a crime that has been committed.’

Really?   By whose standards?

So,am I understanding correctly:   it all boils down to ‘negligence’?  Just a little wee oversight?   A simple mistake? Nothing criminal?  Never?   Just “negligence” ?

Is there no thought here at all of the possibility of obstruction of justice, or that of wilfully placing children at risk?

What of conspiracy?  Is there not a thought of bishops and/or superiors  conspiring to recycle a predatory priest out of a parish, a diocese or the country to avoid or assuage  the wrath of parents?  or to elude criminal prosecution?

And, of course, wouldn’t you know it:  since a law already exists ‘the question of retroactivity’ does not apply.  That in essence tells us all we need to known about this “new” process. There is nothing new about it.  There has been ample opportunity in the past to sanction “negligent” bishops who failed to protect their flock from known clerical molesters.  What has changed?  With this new process, what has changed?  Aside specific mention of the fact that the code  does indeed apply to bishops who were negligent in the handling of abuse cases, what has changed?

According to the article:  ” The procedures call for the Vatican to start an investigation when ‘serious evidence’ is provided that a bishop was negligent.”

Have there not in the past been ample cases showing that various bishops were “negligent,”  and nothing was done?  There must be thousands of lawsuits and/or criminal trials which prove that children were sexually abused after clerical molesters were recycled by bishops and/or religious superiors.  I could go through the list, but I don’t think there’s a need.  We have all read and heard of those heartbreaking cases.  Why were those bishops not removed in accord with the existing Code of Canon Law?

I read somewhere too that the process is not applicable if the offending bishop has retired.  Well, yes of course, that makes sense, does it not?  If he is not in office, it’s impossible to ‘sanction’ a bishop for “negligence” by removing him from office.  Right?

According to the article in the Independent:

The procedures call for the Vatican to start an investigation when “serious evidence” is provided that a bishop was negligent. The bishop will be informed and allowed to defend himself. At the end of the investigation, the Vatican can prepare a decree removing the bishop or ask him to resign within 15 days.

Who will provide the “serious evidence.”

Who will determine that the evidence is “serious”?

I don’t know. I would love to believe that this is a positive step, but all I see is more smoke and mirrors.

I am still waiting for news that all known clerical molesters will be defrocked/lacized.  All.  Retroactive.  Then, and only then, will I believe that the Holy Father, other Vatican officials and all canon lawyers want to start to bring this prolonged sex abuse scandal and cover-up to a belated and merciful conclusion.


I have two documents to post which in a strange way bear relevance to news of this “new” process.

Enough for now,


This entry was posted in Accused or charged, Bishops, Canada, Circling the wagons, Clerical sexual predators, Europe, Pope Francis, recycled, Scandal, Vatican and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to More smoke and mirrors?

  1. BC says:

    Indeed there is nothing new about this so-called new procedure: it only adds another level of Church bureaucracy to an already toothless patchwork legal system.
    This is the Holy See covering it’s own ass after the debacle that was Doe v. Holy See.

    The faithful were expected to read the word negligence in the context of civil torts, Sylvia. It’s the Holy See’s half-assed attempt to criminalize the negligence of it’s Bishops. Of course, there’s no caselaw regarding this new procedure and by the time that caselaw is reasonably established on what constitutes the negligence of Bishops, the Church will have conveniently moved it’s assets to more Church friendly totalitatian states; who understand absolute power Vatican City style, who have no problem with dealing with a rogue state; and who could care less about human rights, children and/or vulnerable persons.

    • Sylvia says:

      I’m not so sure of that BC. You may be right, but doesn’t make sense to me. Mind you, in truth, none of it makes any sense to me. I am waiting for the English translation of the Moto Proprio so that I can read the whole thing in context and see where that takes me 🙂

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