The Vatican’s top prosecutor in sex-abuse cases has said that bishops must be held accountable for their handling of such cases.
Msgr. Charles Scicluna, the promoter of justice at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, used unusually blunt language in his comments during a Vatican-sponsored symposium on the handling of sex-abuse cases. He denounced a “deadly culture of silence or omerta” and “the deliberate denial of known facts” as grave offenses against justice.
The Vatican official pointed out that in many notorious cases, bishops failed to implement the policies already in place to discipline priests who were guilty of abuse. “When set standards are not followed, this is unacceptable,” he said. “No strategy for the prevention of child abuse will ever work without commitment and accountability," Msgr. Scicluna concluded.
Bishops who failed to discipline abusive clerics, and who covered up evidence of abuse, were guilty of ecclesiastical crimes, the Vatican prosecutor noted. He acknowledged that only the Pope has the authority to discipline bishops, but suggested that the apostolic nuncios in various countries should present evidence to the Holy See, allowing the Pontiff to take such action.
Just as bishops have always had the authority to discipline abusive priests, the Pope has the authority to discipline negligent bishops, Msgr. Scicluna said. What is necessary is not a change in canon law, but “applying what we have,” he said.