Bishops must comply with child protection norms, commission says

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VATICAN CITY  — Bishops who do not comply with the child protection norms adopted by their bishops’ conferences and approved by the Vatican must face real consequences, said Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley of Boston, president of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors.

Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley of Boston, President of the Pontifical Commission for Child Protection. (CNS/Paul Haring)

Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley of Boston, President of the Pontifical Commission for Child Protection. (CNS/Paul Haring)

The commission, he said, “is very, very concerned about this whole area of (bishops’) accountability” and has a working group drawing up recommendations for Pope Francis.

The proposed new norms, the cardinal told reporters at the Vatican Feb. 7, “would allow the church to respond in an expeditious way when a bishop has not fulfilled his obligations.”

“We think we have come up with some very practical recommendations that would help to remedy the situation that is such a source of anxiety to everybody” on the pontifical commission, he said. The recommendations will be presented to Pope Francis.

The cardinal and members of the commission, which includes survivors of clerical sex abuse, spoke to reporters at the end of their Feb. 6-7 meeting at the Vatican.

Peter Saunders, a survivor and commission member, said, “Bishop accountability is most definitely something that is a concern and central to some of the work that is going to be carried out by the commission.”

Saunders, who is from London, said he knows the Vatican and the church at large “operate in a slightly different time dimension” where the definition of “quick” may be months or years. “I get that,” Saunders said, “but when it comes to time, children only get one stab at childhood.”

“It is not disputed that there have been far too many cover-ups, there have been far too many clergy protected, moved from place to place — this has got to be consigned to history very quickly,” he said.

4 Responses

  1. Popes Benedict and Francis have been quick to oust bishops for other forms of unacceptable behavior in governance. It is time for nuncios or bishops’ conferences to “take names” and send those names to the pope for decisive action by him to remove individuals. Even “footdragging” by local bishops should not be tolerated. They either demonstrate their quickly addressing abuses or they lose their jobs.

  2. I wonder, Duane, if by “footdragging” you mean to include the application of due legal process predicated on the fundamental principle of “innocent until proven guilty”, most especially were we are talking about allegations usually described as “historical” or “out of time-limit” and it is easy to accuse and very hard to defend, that is “gravy train-likely” claims.

  3. Mr. McLoughlin, I understand your point about those looking for deep pockets and not caring how they get to them. I am referring to evidence that a bishop has not introduced appropriate procedures and demonstrated less-than-satisfactory evidence of following up to get to the bottom of the matter. Perhaps I should have written, “their quickly addressing allegations of abuse.” for I support the fundamental notion that one is innocent until proven guilty.

    It is important that the bishop convey to all clergy and religious in his diocese and other employees of the diocese that allegations of abuse are a priority and will receive his immediate and full attention and that he can demonstrate that he is doing (has done) so.

  4. YES, YES, YES for Cardinal O’Malley. There has to be standardized norms for every parish in the Catholic world, period. There are still parish priests in N. America who feel the protection of children is either overblown or not an issue. Each Bishop must work to hold all their priests accountable as well to make sure these norms are followed. Only in this way will the Church win back it’s credibility and children everywhere will be safe. Bless Pope Francis for insisting on these norms.

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