VATICAN CITY -- Pope Francis has approved new procedures for
the Vatican to investigate and judge claims of "abuse of
office" by bishops who allegedly failed to protect minors and
vulnerable adults from sex abuse.
The procedures will include a new "judicial section" within
the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith that has a
papal mandate to "judge bishops with regard to crimes of the
abuse of office when connected to the abuse of minors," the
Vatican said in a written statement June 10.
The announcement came at the end of a series of consultations
the pope had with his international Council of Cardinals,
which met at the Vatican June 8-10.
U.S. Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley of Boston, a member of the
so-called C9 group of cardinal advisers and president of the
Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, presented
to the council and the pope a number of proposals for greater
accountability of bishops in dealing with cases of clerical
Originally prepared by the protection commission, the
proposals were later expanded and given unanimous approval by
the Council of Cardinals and the pope June 8, the Vatican
While the Code of Canon Law already stipulates that bishops
hold certain responsibilities, there had been no permanent
system or trained staff to deal with reporting, evaluating
and judging claims that a bishop had failed to fulfill his
responsibilities linked to handling suspected and known cases
of sex abuse, said a source familiar with the discussion.
Previously, the Congregation for Bishops would send out a
different ad hoc group to investigate each case, the source
Now a specific "procedure is defined for how to deal with
these cases," which also will allow for an investigation and
judicial process to be carried out in a more timely manner,
Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, told
The new process also means people who want to make a claim --
and anyone can do so -- will know more clearly whom to go to
if a serious crime of negligence is suspected, the source
told Catholic News Service.
Cardinal O'Malley gave the council and Pope Francis a full
report about the proposed procedures, but the Vatican
released only a list of the "five specific proposals made to
the Holy Father," which subsequently received his full
approval and can be considered to have gone into effect.
The Vatican statement said the three Curia offices that have
oversight of the world's bishops -- the congregations for
Bishops, for the Evangelization of Peoples and for Eastern
Churches -- were now authorized "to receive and investigate
complaints of the episcopal abuse of office."
"There is the duty to report all complaints to the
appropriate congregation," it said.
The pope mandated the doctrinal congregation be in charge of
judicial procedures regarding charges of "abuse of office"
and that it establish a special section with the proper staff
and resources to carry out its work.
The pope was to appoint a secretary of the new judicial
section and to authorize the appointment of the personnel
needed for "penal processes regarding the abuse of minors and
vulnerable adults by clergy."
The pope still would have to approve the removal of a bishop
from office if he was found by the tribunal to have been
negligent in his duties, Father Lombardi said.
The new procedures will be reviewed in five years and may be
amended, the statement said.
The Council of Cardinals also told the pope they agreed with
a proposal for creating a new dicastery that would encompass
the Vatican's many communications structures and gradually
integrate them over the next four years.
The council heard the proposal from the new Commission for
the Vatican's Communications Media, headed by Msgr. Dario
Vigano, director of the Vatican Television Center.
The five-person commission was established by the pope in
April to find ways to implement a series of recommendations
for streamlining, modernizing and making more cost-effective
the Vatican's communications outlets.
The commission presented the cardinals' council with a plan
that would see "a gradual integration" of nine Vatican media
operations while protecting people's jobs, the Vatican
statement said. The plan includes "the establishment in the
next months of a dicastery and the appointments necessary to
launch the process."
Australian Cardinal George Pell, head of the Secretariat for
the Economy, gave a full report on the latest financial
reforms at the Vatican, the Vatican statement said.
The cardinal said the Council for the Economy had set up
separate working groups: to analyze revenues and investments;
study human resources management; and review existing
information technology, its compatibility and effectiveness.