The Catholic Herald
It is hoped the tribunals would speed up abuse cases
Pope Francis and his international Council of Cardinals discussed the possibility of establishing regional tribunals around the world that would judge cases of sexual abuse allegedly committed by clergy, the Vatican spokesman said.
Greg Burke, the spokesman, confirmed a report published on the website Vatican Insider that said the pope and his cardinal advisers were considering decentralising the role of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in handling cases, but would not diminish the congregation’s authority.
“I can say that this is one of the options. The Pope himself spoke about this in one of his press conferences,” Burke told journalists on February 28.
The Council of Cardinals, often referred to as the C9, held its first meeting of the year from February 26 to 28 with Pope Francis. The Pope appointed the council members five years ago to advise him on the reform of the Roman Curia and on church governance.
During his flight to Rome from Fatima last May, Pope Francis spoke to reporters about the possibility of establishing regional tribunals. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Pope told journalists, was overwhelmed with “many delayed cases because they have been piling up.” He added that discussions on the regional tribunals were “in the planning stage.”
“For this, we are thinking of providing continent-wide assistance, one or two per continent. For example – in Latin America – one in Colombia, another in Brazil. They would be continental pre-tribunals or tribunals,” he said.
According to Vatican Insider, the establishment of regional tribunals also would resolve the complication of dealing with cases in various countries with different laws and customs, thus allowing for a faster process in examining those cases.
Burke emphasized that if established, regional tribunals “would always be under” the authority of the doctrinal congregation.
The Vatican spokesman said the council also discussed the role of bishops’ conferences and ways the conferences could contribute to discussions on theological issues in a more collegial spirit.
Pope Francis, in his 2013 exhortation, “The Joy of the Gospel,” had written about the need for a greater role for bishops’ conferences, asserting that “excessive centralisation, rather than proving helpful, complicates the Church’s life and her missionary outreach.”
Among other documents, Burke said, the Council of Cardinals looked at St John Paul II’s 1998 apostolic letter on the theological and juridical nature of bishops’ conferences.
“It is a question of re-reading the motu proprio, ‘Apostolos Suos,’ in a spirit of healthy decentralization that the pope often speaks of (while) reaffirming that it is always he who guards unity in the church,” Burke said.
The Council of Cardinals will meet again from April 23 to 25. Its members are: Cardinals Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state; Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga of Tegucigalpa, Honduras; Sean P. O’Malley of Boston; Francisco Javier Errazuriz Ossa, retired archbishop of Santiago, Chile; Oswald Gracias of Mumbai, India; Reinhard Marx of Munich and Freising, Germany; Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya of Kinshasa, Congo; George Pell, head of the Secretariat of the Economy; and Giuseppe Bertello, president of the commission governing Vatican City State.
Cardinal Pell, who is on a leave of absence while facing charges of sexual abuse filed against him in Australia, was not in attendance. Cardinal Monsengwo was unable to attend the first day of the meeting because of a flight cancellation due to a rare snowstorm that struck Rome Feb. 26, Burke said.
Vatican studying ways to speed up sexual abuse cases
February 28, 2018 / 10:21 AM
VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – Pope Francis is studying how to speed up the handling of allegations of sexual abuse by clergy, the Vatican said on Wednesday, after a high-profile case in Chile put a new spotlight on the scandal.
The topic was a main point of discussion in three days of meetings between the pope and a group of nine cardinals from the around the world who gather four times a year at the Vatican to discuss reform, Church finances and other issues.
Vatican spokesman Greg Burke said they had discussed “various options” to shorten procedures in cases of abuse.
They are currently handled by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), the Vatican’s doctrinal department.
Burke said that among the options discussed was to decentralize procedures by setting up regional tribunals that would hear cases under the auspices and guidance of the CDF.
The CDF hears canonical cases, applying Church laws that could lead to the defrocking of accused priests if found guilty. The Church procedures are distinct from criminal procedures in civilian courts in places where the crime is committed.
Cardinal Sean O‘Malley of Boston, the city where the worldwide crisis of sexual abuse first exploded, and a key adviser of the pope, is studying the decentralization proposal.
The proposal followed intense criticism of the pope for defending a bishop in Chile accused of covering up sexual abuse.
During his trip to the South American nation last month, Francis at first rejected accusations that Bishop Juan Barros had hidden information about the abuse of minors by his mentor, Father Fernando Karadima.
After his return from Chile, Francis did an about-face and dispatched Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta, one of the Church’s most experienced sexual abuse investigators, to Santiago to hear more testimony in the Barros case.
Barros, appointed by Francis to the diocese of Osorno in 2015, has said he was unaware of any wrongdoing by Karadima. Karadima always denied the allegations.
After a Church trial in 2011, the Vatican banned Karadima from public ministry and ordered him to follow a life of prayer and penitence, but he avoided criminal prosecution because under Chilean law too much time had elapsed since the offences. Now 87, he still lives in Chile.
While Scicluna was sent to Chile to hear testimony in the Barros case, during his visit Catholics who say they were abused by members of other religious orders came forward and asked him to investigate their cases as well.
Reporting by Philip Pullella; Editing by Alison Williams