Pope Francis has nixed his plan for a tribunal that would prosecute bishops who fail to treat pedophilic priests as criminals, opting instead only to strengthen existing statutes.

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Survivors of abuse have long called for stricter accountability processes when it comes to holding bishops responsible for the despicable actions of priests. So when the pope approved the creation of the tribunal last year, it looked, to many, like progress.

Now, the Washington Post reports that the tribunal plan has vanished silently into the night, supplanted by a law that would merely“clarify legal procedures.”

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The news comes as a grave disappointment to the abused, who were eager to see repercussions wrought upon the many criminals enjoying the boundless protection of one of history’s most powerful bodies, the Catholic church.

But the new law was immediately criticized by survivors of abuse as essentially window dressing since there were already ways to investigate and dismiss bishops for wrongdoing — they were just rarely used against bishops who failed to protect their flocks from pedophiles.

In 2014, the Holy See reported more than 3,400 cases of abuse since 2004, from which stemmed the defrocking of 848 priests. Those impressive figures are apparently not adequately substantial to justify the headache that such a tribunal would cause...who, exactly? Ah, yes, the very bishops who would find themselves the subjects of investigation. From the Post:

But that proposal posed a host of legal and bureaucratic issues and ran into opposition from bishops and the Vatican bureaucracy. In the end, Francis backed off and instead essentially reminded the four Vatican offices that already handle bishop issues that they were also responsible for investigating and punishing negligence cases involving abuse.

Francis said that the law will include language specifically stating that negligence in handling abuse cases will be counted among the “grave reasons” a bishop might be removed.

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How this doesn’t read to his Holiness—praised for his progressivism and sharp intellect—as anything other than attenuated bureaucratic jargon is beyond me.

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