Pope Francis on Saturday released an apostolic letter in the form of a Motu Proprio, stipulating that bishops who have been negligent in protecting their flock from sexual abuse can be removed from office.
The letter, Come una madre amore vole, affirms that the Church, like a loving mother, loves all her children, but treats and protects with special affection the smallest and most helpless. This is a task that Christ Himself entrusts to all the Christian community as a whole. Although this care and protection is the responsibility of all the Church, the Holy Father emphasises that it is to be carried out in particular through her pastors. Therefore, diocesan bishops, eparchs and those who are responsible for a particular Church must act with special diligence in the protection of the weakest among those entrusted to them.
You can read this letter here
Removal of Bishops Due to Negligence
(Explanatory Note by Jesuit Fr. Federico Lombardi, director of the Vatican press office, on the Apostolic Letter “Like a loving mother” (June 4, 2016))
The Apostolic Letter insists on the importance of vigilant care in the protection of minors and vulnerable adults, which requires a “special diligence”. Therefore, it specifies that negligence regarding cases of sexual abuse of minors or vulnerable adults is included among the “grave causes” that justify the removal from ecclesiastical offices, including Episcopal office.
It is a Law that establishes the procedure to be followed for the implementation of a Canon already present in the Code of Canon Law. It is not a criminal procedure since it does not regard a “crime” committed, but rather cases of negligence on the part of bishops or religious Superiors.
The “investigation” in cases of negligence is to be carried out by the competent Congregations, of which there are four:
* The Evangelization of Peoples
* Oriental Churches Institutes of Consecrated Life and
* Societies of Apostolic Life
Two points are noteworthy:
– Diligence may be lacking even “without grave moral culpability” on the part of the Bishop.
– For removal from office, in the case of abuse of minors, “it is sufficient for the lack of diligence to be grave”, while in other cases a “very grave” lack of diligence must be demonstrated.
Since this relates to important decisions involving bishops, specific approval depends on the Holy Father (which is not a novelty).
However, a new aspect is the constitution of a dedicated special College of legal experts, to assist the Holy Father before assuming a definitive decision. It is expected that this College will be constituted of Cardinals and Bishops.
You can read the full explanation of Father Lombardi here
Source: Zenit, links given above
Image Source: Zenit