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Pope Francis Creates New Tribunal to Judge Bishops in Cases of Alleged Sexual Abuse Cover-Up

Pope Francis Scares the Powerful, says Franciscan


Diane Montagna - published on 06/11/15

Announcement comes at the conclusion of the 10th Meeting of the Council of Cardinals

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis has authorized the establishment of a new tribunal to judge bishops with regard to crimes of the abuse of office when connected to the abuse of minors, the Vatican announced on Wednesday.

The new tribunal will come under the auspices of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the office of the Roman Curia already responsible for reviewing cases of sexual abuse alleged to have been committed by members of the clergy.

The approval of the new tribunal comes after Cardinal Seán Patrick O’Malley, OFM Cap. on Monday presented a report to the Pope during the afternoon session of the 10th Meeting of the Council of Cardinals. The Council has been meeting with the Holy Father this week, June 8-10, in the Vatican’s Casa Santa Marta.

Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi told reporters at a press briefing on Wednesday that the report, originally prepared by the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, also includes a second proposal regarding allegations of sexual abuse of minors and vulnerable adults by clergy.

The report outlines the general terms defining the two proposals; issues relating to procedure and to the Tribunal that judges the cases; and the advantages of proposals chosen as compared with other possible solutions. 

The report concludes with five specific proposals to the Holy Father, namely:  

1. That because the competence to receive and investigate complaints of the episcopal abuse of office belongs to the Congregations for Bishops, Evangelization of Peoples, or Oriental Churches, there is the duty to report all complaints to the appropriate Congregation.

2. That the Holy Father mandate the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to judge bishops with regard to crimes of the abuse of office when connected to the abuse of minors.

3. That the Holy Father authorize the establishment of a new Judicial Section in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and appointment of stable personnel to undertake service in the Tribunal. The implementation of this decision would follow consultation with the Prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

4. That the Holy Father appoint a Secretary to assist the Prefect with the Tribunal. The Secretary will have responsibility for the new Judicial Section and the personnel of the Section will also be available to the Prefect for penal processes regarding the abuse of minors and vulnerable adults by clergy. This appointment will also follow the consultation with the Prefect of the Congregation.

5. That the Holy Father establish a five-year period for further development of these proposals and for completing a formal evaluation of their effectiveness.

The Council of Cardinals agreed unanimously on these proposals and resolved that they be submitted to Pope Francis. The Holy Father approved the proposals and authorized that sufficient resources will be provided for this purpose.

Also on the cardinals’ agenda: Vatican finances and media 

The Vatican’s ongoing economic reforms and its efforts to streamline its media offices were also on the Council of Cardinals’ agenda at this week’s meeting with the Pope.

Cardinal George Pell, Prefect of the Secretariat of Economy, presented a report updating information regarding financial reforms. He recalled the appointment of the new Auditor General, the approval of the new statutes of the Pension Fund, and the completion of the list of entities to be submitted to the supervisory authority of the Council for the Economy, as required by its statutes.

The Australian cardinal also reported on three new initiatives of the Council for the Economy, thus establishing three new working groups: one for the analysis of revenue and investment; one for the management of human resources; and a third for the study of existing IT systems, their compatibility and efficiency. 

On the media front, Msgr. Dario Viganò, director of the Vatican Television Center and president of the Commission for Vatican Media created by Pope Francis last April, also presented a report. 

Based on the findings of the McKinsey report and studies carried out by previous Commissions (COSEA and the Vatican Media Commission chaired by Lord Chris Patten), the present Commission presented a project for reform to be implemented over 4 years, which safeguards employees and provides for a gradual integration of the Vatican’s various media institutions.

The institutions involved are: The Pontifical Council for Social Communications; the Vatican Press Office; Vatican Radio; Vatican Television Center; the Osservatore Romano, the Vatican’s Photo Service; Libreria Editrice Vaticana; Vatican Printing; and the Vatican Internet Service.

The Council of Cardinals gave a nod of approval to Pope Francis regarding the media reforms, and the establishment in the coming months of a dicastery to begin the process.

Preparing bishops for the new encyclical

The Council of Cardinals were also updated on preparations being made for the publication of the Pope’s new encyclical on the environment. The highly anticipated papal document, entitled Laudato si’, on the care for our common home, will be released on Thursday, June 18th. 

Fr. Michael Czerny, of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, informed the Council of Cardinals of the Pope’s desire to send all Catholic bishops, via email, suggestions and helps — in particular previous statements and teachings of Pope Francis on environmental issues — “so that individual bishops and episcopal conferences can feel prepared for the publication of the new document, and be able to accompany the publication with appropriate explanations and comments.”

Fr. Czerny stressed the importance of preparing for the encyclical’s release, “in order that the publication of the encyclical is seen as an important event in the life of the universal Church, in communion with the Holy Father.”

With growing concern that the UN will attempt to hijack the Pope’s new encyclical to promote their own anti-life, population control agenda under the guise of climate change, it remains to be seen how the encyclical is received inside and outside the Church. 

The next meeting of the Council of Cardinals is scheduled for September 14-16, just before the Pope’s apostolic visit to Cuba and the United States, and just weeks before the October 4-25 Ordinary Synod on the Family.

Diane Montagna is Rome correspondent for Aleteia’s English edition.

Pope Francis
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