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Vatican reform process ‘nearly complete,’ C9 member says

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis’ international Council of Cardinals, the so-called C9, is nearly done with its work of advising the pope on a major reform of the Vatican bureaucracy, the secretary of the council said.

Pope Francis leads the 18th meeting of his Council of Cardinals at the Vatican Feb. 13. Seated to the left of the pope are: Bishop Marcello Semeraro of Albano, Italy, secretary of the council; Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, coordinator of the council; Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Mumbai, India; Cardinal Francisco Javier Errazuriz Ossa, retired archbishop of Santiago, Chile; Cardinal George Pell, head of the Secretariat for the Economy. Seated at right are: Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state; Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich and Freising, Germany; Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley of Boston; Cardinal Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya of Kinshasa, Congo; Cardinal Giuseppe Bertello, president of the commission governing Vatican City State. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano, handout)

Bishop Marcello Semeraro of Albano, secretary of Pope Francis’ Council of Cardinals, told Vatican Radio Sept. 11 that “as far as the reform process of the Roman Curia is concerned, it is even more than three-quarters of the way there; it is almost complete.”

“It is nearly complete at the level of proposals made to the pope,” he said.

The Council of Cardinals was meeting at the Vatican Sept. 11-13. Pope Francis, who returned from his visit to Colombia Sept. 11, did not attend the first day’s meeting.

Bishop Semeraro told Vatican Radio of the council’s work in advising the pope on the reform of the Vatican’s organization and church governance, describing it as a three-step process of “listening” to the contributions from the bishops, the Roman Curia and “many people who have written,” reflecting on those proposals and checking them over.

“Listening, reflecting, checking and then making a proposal to the pope” because the Council of Cardinals does not issue a decree; “the Council of Cardinals proposes to the pope,” he said.

Throughout their meetings, he continued, Pope Francis takes part “primarily by listening” and “intervenes when he recounts his personal experiences when he was archbishop of Buenos Aires, Argentina, or of current situations in the life of the church.”

The work of the council is not only dedicated to reforming the Roman Curia but to informing, advising and collaborating with Pope Francis concerning various situations in the church, Bishop Semeraro said.

One example, he added, was to discuss “the very painful reality of the abuse of minors.”

“This, in itself, is not part of the reform of the Roman Curia. Yet, the pope has decided to listen to the council, too, about these steps. And, when it comes to clarifying or intervening, the pope intervenes but with great discretion. He mostly listens,” Bishops Semeraro said.

Regarding the time frame of the reform, the Italian prelate said the final proposals dealing with all the dicasteries “will be more or less complete in a few months” and that it will be up to the pope “to decide how and when to implement them.”

“Right now the pope has preferred a gradual implementation, as well as a sort of breaking-in period. In some cases, the pope has already intervened to make corrections because in passing from theory to practice, needs for correction have emerged,” Bishop Semeraro said.

     

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Pope OKs plan to investigate, judge bishops who fail to act on abuse

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Catholic News Service

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.

Pope Francis speaks during his general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican June 10. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis speaks during his general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican June 10. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

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 sexual abuse.

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 said.

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 of Bishops would send out a different ad hoc group to investigate each case, the source added.

Now a specific “procedure is defined for how to deal with these cases,” Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, told reporters.

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.

 

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