In addressing the issue on sexual abuse on children by some priests, Pope Francis announced Saturday that bishops who fail to report cases of sex abuse of children and vulnerable adults could be removed from office.
Over the years, it has been said that the Catholic Church has not been holding bishops accountable for failing to act in cases of clerical sex abuses in the Church. The criticism has been followed by some victims’ families lobbying the Vatican to take a tougher stance on the issue.
In 2014, Pope Francis responded to the issue by setting up a Vatican commission on sexual abuse in the Church and parishes.
In recent developments, Pope Francis in an apostolic letter published Saturday June 6, explained that canon law already allows bishops to be removed for serious reasons. The Pope made clear that among those reasons is the failure of a bishop to report cases of sexual abuse of minors and vulnerable adults.
Part of the statement of Pope Francis read “As a loving mother, the Church loves all her children, but treats and protects with a very particular affection the smaller and helpless. This is a task that Christ entrusted to the entire Christian community as a whole. With this in mind, the Church is vigilant in protecting children and vulnerable adults,”
The Pope went Further to note that Bishops and other people holding leadership positions in the Church must protect those who are the weakest among the people entrusted to them. “In the case of abuse of minors or vulnerable adults, it is sufficient that the lack of care is serious,” The Pope wrote.
He explained that Vatican offices have the jurisdiction to remove bishops in such cases. This could be done by urging the bishop to submit his resignation or a decree of removal could be issued, but the final decision rests with the Pope as the churches highest authority.
Still in the same letter, Pope Francis also established a panel of legal experts to advise him on making the final decision regarding the removal of a bishop or superior in cases of sexual abuse.