Will the New Papal Instruction on Clerical Sex Abuse Target the Likes of Danneels and Barros?

Will the New Papal Instruction on Clerical Sex Abuse Target the Likes of Danneels and Barros?


Vatican Radio reports on the issuance of a new motu proprio letter from Pope Francis that aims to deal with episcopal enablers of clerical sex abuse:

In a new Apostolic Letter, issued motu proprio, Pope Francis has established new norms providing for the removal of Bishops (or those equivalent to them in Canon Law) from their offices in cases where they have “through negligance, committed or omitted acts that have caused grave harm to others, either with regard to physical persons, or with regard to the community itself.”

The Apostolic Letter “Come una madre amorevole” (As a Loving Mother) also clarifies that, with regard “to abuse of minors or vulnerable adults, it is sufficient that the lack of diligence be grave.”

In a note explaining the new procedures, the Director of the Holy See Press Office, Father Federico Lombardi, SJ, said, “The Apostolic Letter insists on the importance of vigilant care for the protection of minors and vulnerable adults, calling for a ‘particular diligence.” Therefore, he continued, “it clarifies that negligence regarding cases of sexual abuse committed against children or vulnerable adults are among the ‘grave causes’ that justify removal from ecclesiastical Offices, even of Bishops.”

We already know that Francis is keen to discipline orthodox bishops implicated in such malfeasance, as was the case with Bishop Finn of Kansas City-St. Joseph …

But what about Francis’ personal friends? The ones who, like Cardinal Godfried Danneels of Belgium — who was caught on tape attempting to silence a victim of clerical sex abuse — helped to get Francis elected? As I shared with our readers last year:

On April 8, 2010, the newly retired Cardinal Danneels received some visitors at his home. They were the relatives of the Bishop of Bruges, Roger Vangheluwe, Danneels’ close friend. At this meeting, the nephew of Vangheluwe described a long and sordid 13 year molestation by his uncle, the Bishop of Bruges. Cardinal Daneels advised the nephew not to go public with the sexual abuse. During the meeting, Danneels advised the young man not to “make a lot of noise” about the abuse he endured from his uncle bishop because Vangheluwe was scheduled to retire in a year anyway. “It would be better that you wait,” advised Danneels, while also urging the young man to forgive his uncle.

“The conversation was tape recorded by the nephew and subsequently released to the press. Cardinal Danneels, the former head of Belgium’s Roman Catholic Church for 3 decades, could be heard on tape urging this sexual abuse victim to stay quiet and not disclose the abuse until after the bishop who repeatedly molested him over a span of 13 years could retire. After the release of the recording, Danneels did not dispute the authenticity of the conversation. A media firestorm was unleashed in Belgium, a country still reeling over institutional cover ups of child sex abuse.

Or what of Bishop Barros, who raised eyebrows in the pope’s own anti-abuse commission and whose appointment as Bishop of Osorno in Chile was met with passionate protests? What of Francis’ scornful response to these concerns?

The Osorno community is suffering because it’s dumb,” Pope Francis told a group of tourists on St. Peter’s Square in Vatican City, because it “has let its head be filled with what politicians say, judging a bishop without any proof.”

“Don’t be led by the nose by the leftists who orchestrated all of this,” the pope said.

The video, filmed by an Argentine tourist in May, was obtained by a Chilean television station and broadcast Friday, quickly instilling doubts here about the pope’s commitment to protecting victims of sexual abuse.


Hundreds of demonstrators interrupted Bishop Barros’s installation ceremony in March, blocking his passage and shouting, “Barros, get out of the city!” The protests have not stopped since, but this time the anger has turned to the pope.

“The pope’s comments aggravated our discontent,” said Juan Carlos Claret, a spokesman for Osorno’s Lay Organization, which has been holding protests and candlelight vigils against Bishop Barros for months.

“It is the Church of Osorno that is demonstrating; we are not taking orders from political parties,” Mr. Claret said. “We are now seeing the real face of Pope Francis, and we demand an explanation.”

Some people I respect — individuals with reasonably solid theological training — say that the new changes actually represent an improvement, a clarification where there was previously ambiguity. And of course, actual cases of epsicopal coverup of such crimes demand to be addressed without equivocation.

There is currently no English text of the motu proprio, but sources in Rome tell me that it is primarily directed at ordinaries currently serving in episcopal sees. This seems strange when “retired” Cardinals like Law and Danneels are still out there, consequence free. Barros is a new bishop, and thus, should be among the first to earn the scrutiny of this new document, but if Francis really means business on this issue, Danneels can’t go unaffected.

The simple fact is this: if friends of the pope are off limits, the new procedures are all but worthless. And to be frank, we don’t need another weapon, however appealing it may be on the surface, that will ultimately be used only against bishops who allow Catholic Tradition to flourish in their dioceses, oppose the obvious interpretations of Amoris Laetitia, or in some other way “make trouble” for the current program of the Holy See.

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6 comments on “Will the New Papal Instruction on Clerical Sex Abuse Target the Likes of Danneels and Barros?

  1. I hate to disappoint anyone this is just another exercise in Public Relations, the text isn’t worth the paper it is written on. The only time anyone is scrutinized by these criminals in the Vatican is often only when they have Traditional tendencies, then anything that have on them, must definitely be true, and will be used against them regardless.

    In reality, if that text were to be taken seriously a vast number of the bishops would be out of a job for their criminal neglect in this matter.

    • Phil Lawler said somewhere on Catholic Culture (I cannot find the reference) that while only 2% of the priests are sexual offenders, 98% of the bishops cover up for them.

  2. New procedures to remove negligent Bishops… what could go wrong?

    Posted on 4 June 2016 by Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

    The Pope has issued an Apostolic Letter (heavy) Motu Proprio to establish procedures to remove bishops who don’t act adequately in regard to priests who hurt children or vulnerable people.

    Good. On the face of it, that’s great.

    I’ve been irritated ever since the US bishops decided to exempt themselves from the so-called Dallas Charter. Instead of “clerics”, they chose “priests and deacons”, thus leaving themselves outside.

    However, as I have listened to my friends react to this news in email and and texts, I am confirmed in my first reaction.

    Bishops will now have an even greater motive to hammer innocent priests into the ground in order to cover their episcopal backsides.

    Will this mark another “open season” on priests?

    Think about it:

    Freeda Burnbradia doesn’t like what Father preaches, or that he doesn’t have altar girls. In her oddball feminist fog she imagines that, during a rehearsal for a Mass, Father is not quite properly dealing with all the altar boys. Hence, she writes to the local Bishop of Libville, Most Rev. Fatty McButterpants, with the notion that Father might not be dealing with children in a way that she (therefore everyone) approves. The Bishop of Libville then grinds Father into grit in the gutter on the force of a suggestion. He wants to cover his increasingly wide ass in light of the new legislation.

    Father is, of course, entirely innocent. But this moment gives everyone cover to get a troublesome priest out of the way.

    It’s all about bishops and never about priests …

  3. The document says “through negligence, …omission, …harm..to the community”. So if a clergyman offends the sensibilities of the community, can this cleric be removed? Priests have to do and say controversial things. What if the”community” activist organizations find it unacceptable? “You will beaten in synagogues and tried in courts on My account” says Christ in the scriptures.

  4. Technically speaking if this is the case then Bergoglio should remove himself.
    After all he was the one that appointed a homo and a pedophile ( Juan Barros) to the episcopacy of Osorno, Chile.
    This motu proprio is just another farce perpetrated by the Bergoglian run church.

  5. From: Pope Francis issues new policy for removing bishops

    Claire Chretien
    June 7, 2016

    [Some] raised concerns that the new procedures could be abused to make it easier to remove faithful bishops and priests.

    “As encouraging as it is to see the Holy Father taking the issue of clerical sexual abuse seriously, there are several causes for concern regarding his recent motu proprio,” Michael Hichborn, the president of the Lepanto Institute, told LifeSiteNews. “What is deeply concerning about this motu proprio is how it can be wielded as a political weapon against faithful bishops and priests. For one thing, the language is ambiguous and open to wide interpretation. For instance, Article 1, §3 says that a ‘lack of serious care’ is sufficient for the removal of a bishop or Eparch. This is highly subjective language and can lead to a climate of paranoia among the clergy and the suppression of faithful priests who have been wrongly accused by disgruntled and dissident parishioners.”

    “Another issue is that the motu proprio says that a bishop or Eparch can be removed ‘if objectively he has missed in a very serious diligence that is required by his pastoral office, even without serious moral fault of his own,’” said Hichborn.

    Hichborn cited the example of Bishop Robert Finn, the former Bishop of Kansas City-St. Joseph, who was removed by the Vatican for negligence after years of attacks by the American media and leftist, dissident Catholics. A grand jury found Finn guilty of a misdemeanor in 2012 for failing to adequately report to the police a priest who was found with sexual images of minors on his computer.

    “Even though Bishop Finn went to law enforcement, and believed he was following proper legal procedure, he was found guilty and ultimately removed from his diocese,” continued Hichborn. “Not surprisingly, the National un-Catholic Reporter, which he had condemned, led the charge in calling for his removal. This is just one example of how this document could play a dangerous role in the hands of dissident Catholics.”

    * * *

    “Something to be considered is that a document such as [Come una madre amorevole] is merely a band-aid that ignores the serious injury lying underneath,” said Hichborn. “The fact of the matter is that at the heart of the sexual abuse crisis in the Church is homosexual priests. Sexual deviancy always leads to deeper moral depravity, and the issue of homosexuals in the priesthood is what truly needs to be addressed.”

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