The Pope’s move to hold bishops accountable could have seismic consequences

By Ed Condon                       June 4, 2016                       Catholic Herald on-line

This morning, Pope Francis issued the motu proprio Come una madre amorevole, or As a loving mother. The letter establishes the long-awaited procedural norms for the removal of diocesan bishops for negligence in cases involving clerical sexual abuse, which were first announced last year.

Canon law, as the new norms acknowledge, already provides for the loss of any ecclesiastical office, including that of a diocesan bishop, for “grave cause” (cc. 192-193); Come una madre makes explicit that negligence in the exercise of their office is such a grave cause, especially when linked to cases of clerical sexual abuse.

According to the new norms, the appropriate Congregation of the Roman Curia will conduct the entire process of investigating a bishop themselves: they will determine which cases to investigate, gather evidence, meet other bishops from the relevant territory, and hear the defence of the accused before reaching their conclusion as part of the Congregation’s business when meeting in ordinary session. If they find in favour of removal, the decision must be approved by the Pope personally, who will be assisted by a special legal advisory group in these cases.

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