Catholic News Service
ROME — 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.”
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.
Also among the speakers was an Irish woman, Marie Collins, who told the conference Feb. 7 that she was abused at the age of 13 by a priest whose superiors later shielded him from prosecution.
“There must be acknowledgment and accountability for the harm and destruction that has been done to the life of victims and their families by the often deliberate cover-up and mishandling of cases by their superiors before I or other victims can find real peace and healing,” Collins said.