(CNS photo/Robert Duncan)
Cardinal Marc Ouellet, prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for Bishops, leads a Feb. 7 penitential vigil at St. Ignatius Church in Rome to show contrition for clerical sexual abuse.
Vatican sex abuse investigator says bishops should be more accountable
February 14th, 2012
By Francis X. Rocca
ROME (CNS) – The Vatican’s top sex abuse investigator called for greater accountability under church law of bishops who shield or fail to discipline pedophile priests.
Msgr. Charles Scicluna, promoter of justice for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, made his remarks to reporters in Rome Feb. 8, after addressing an international symposium on clerical sex abuse.
“It is a crime in canon law to show malicious or fraudulent negligence in the exercise of one’s duty,” Msgr. Scicluna said, regarding the responsibility of bishops to protect children and punish abusers.
With respect to bishops who fail to apply the church’s anti-abuse norms, Msgr. Scicluna said that “it is not acceptable that when there are set standards, people do not follow the set standards.”
Acknowledging that the sanctions that canon law provides for the punishment of clergy are sometimes not applied to bishops, he said that “ecclesial accountability has to be further developed.”
“What we need to do is to be vigilant in choosing candidates for the important role of bishop, and also to use the tools that canonical law and tradition give for accountability of bishops,” Msgr. Scicluna said. “It’s not a question of changing laws, it’s a question of applying what we have.”
Earlier in the morning, Msgr. Scicluna told a symposium attended by representatives of 110 bishops’ conferences and 30 religious orders that a “deadly culture of silence, or ‘omerta,’ is in itself wrong and unjust,” and that “no strategy for the prevention of child abuse will ever work without commitment and accountability.”
In his address to the conference, published in full on the website of Vatican Radio, Msgr. Scicluna said “the Catholic Church knows well that whenever one of its ministers, whether bishop, priest or deacon, or lay pastoral agent, sexually abuses a minor, a tragic wound is inflicted on the community; subordinated at it is by the indescribably repugnant damage done to the child.”
He said such conduct is reproachable on various counts, of which the most important is that it “inflicts untold damage to the normal sexual development, self-esteem and human dignity of the minor concerned.”
In addition abuse is cause of scandal to Christians and non-Christians alike, “a stumbling block on many a pilgrim’s progress in faith”; it invariably constitutes an abuse and a betrayal of the sacred trust which the people of God rightly have of their shepherds; it damages the credibility of the church “and taints the beauty of her testimony to the Gospel of Jesus Christ”; and it “discredits the ministerial priesthood and puts countless innocent clerics and pastoral agents under the shadow of delinquency, crime and misdemeanor.”
The conference, “Toward Healing and Renewal,” was called to launch a global initiative aimed at improving efforts to stop clerical sexual abuse and protect children and vulnerable adults. It was scheduled to run Feb. 6-9 at Rome’s Pontifical Gregorian University, with the support of the Vatican Secretariat of State and several other Vatican offices.
– Catholic San Francisco contributed to this story.
From February 17, 2012 issue of Catholic San Francisco.