Who watches the watchmen?

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No doubt about it, the Vatican’s latest missive has laid an egg. Styled as an encyclical to assist national bishops conferences in developing guidelines for dealing with clergy accused of sexual abuse, the letter utterly ignores what everybody outside the Church hierarchy itself acknowledges to be the central problem: the bishops themselves.

Take Philadelphia, please. The U.S. bishops conference didn’t merely have guidelines, it had Vatican-approved norms–which were ignored by Cardinal Justin Rigali and his henchmen. As for the archdiocesan review board, tasked with reviewing all cases, it was kept in the dark and then used to provide cover for episcopal misbehavior, according to its chair, Ana Maria Catanzano. That’s the problem in a nutshell.

Always eager to safeguard its prerogatives, the Vatican insists that if the conferences want to go beyond guidelines and actually establish “binding norms,” then “it will be necessary to request the recognitio from the competent Dicasteries of the Roman Curia.”  OK, let’s go with that.

To deal with the problem of recalcitrant bishops, the conferences should be obliged to establish binding norms, which norms must include a zero tolerance policy for bishops, comparable to the American zero tolerance policy for priests. That is to say, if there is credible evidence that a bishop has covered up a case of clerical sexual abuse, he will be suspended from office by Rome, and removed if the case is proved. Assuming Rome wants to get the bishops’ attention, that’s the two-by-four that would get it.

  • David Clohessy

    David Clohessy
    Executive Director, SNAP
    Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
    7234 Arsenal Street
    St. Louis MO 63143
    314 566 9790

  • mike ference

    Sadly, it’s a problem no one wants to fix. How can we rely on grown men who like to dress up in Barbie-doll-like garb, who have protected dysfunctional sex freaks for centuries, to all of a sudden change their ways.
    As far as Ana Maria Contanzano, she can refuse to put money into her church envelope. SNAP, Bob Hoatson, Bishop-Accoutnability, etc. would be just a few options for her to send money to.
    I’ve been an advocate for clergy sex abuse victims for over 21 years, like many others. Let’s see how long Ms. Constanzano maintains her current position.
    Mike Ference

  • Tim Lennon

    While the latest Vatican communication acknowledges civil authorities all decisions rest with the bishop as the deciding authority.
    Any meaningful communication would have said: in any all cases of child abuse or misconduct, Call the Police! Contact child protective services! Without those clarion calls the bishops will continue their practice of stonewalling, coverup and complicity.
    Tim Lennon

  • Jim Moran

    The vatican statement points out that the lay review boards in no way replace the “wisdom,” “authority,” and “power” of the bishop. Isn’t that “wisdon, authority and power” of the bishops what got the church into this crisis in the first place? DOH! Lots of nice words — but words alone are not going to fix the problem. Serious changes to existing policies and norms need to bring the church to the modern era. The church cannot exist in a vaccuum. Not if it wants to grow and be meaningful to people in the modern world.

  • CER1940

    Authority corrupts… Absolute authority corrupts absolutely…
    The RCC heirarchy has proven, over a period of thousands of years, that they are not worthy of the absolute authority they have claimed for themselves.
    The only workable solution is for the people of the church to have some say over their governance.
    The people must have the power to remove a pastor or other leader who they feel is not worthy or competent to lead.

  • Amos

    Churchmen could be “psychopathic,” but, I would guess they are definitely sexually neurotic and have no business counseling anyone on sexual matters. As batchlor celibates, their posturing on sexual issues, using the mythos of a belief system that could not outlive the immediate expectation of “The End of Days” without serious theological adjustment of the Jesus Message, sometime in he late first century BCE, defies logic and common sense. 
    “Catholic moral theology is a folly that invokes God and pretends to be religious. It has warped the consciences of many men and women. It has burdened them with hairsplitting nonsense and striven to train them as moral acrobats instead of making them more humane and kinder to their fellow human beings.”.   Uta Ranke-Heinemann
    She continues: “The whole of church history adds up to one long arbitrary, narrow-minded masculine despotism over the female sex.”

  • tomassotucson

    Where is the Justice Department?