Bishops must be held accountable as well…

Lacking in both the Dallas Norms governing the Catholic Church in the United States and in CDF’s  Cardinal Levada’s announcement of changes in the church’s universal laws is any mention of the fate of bishops who, by ignoring the reported sexual abuse of children by their priests, allow them to victimize yet more children.

This truly is the elephant in the sanctuary.


Nicholas P. Cafardi, former dean at Duquesne University School of Law in Pittsburgh, writes pointedly in NCR:

The Dallas Norms effectively shifted the burden of the abuse crisis from the bishops who ignored the abuse to the priests who perpetrated it. The universal norms announced by Cardinal Levada ignore the problem entirely. And yet, we must come to terms with this part of the problem. Unlike in the American church, in Ireland, the bishops who re-assigned priest abusers, had the courage to resign their bishoprics. But even here, there is a problem. It should not be up to the bishop to dismiss himself. Something in the church’s law should make this happen.

 And there is something in the church’s law that does. Canon 1389, §2, says that “A person who through culpable negligence illegitimately places or omits an act of ecclesiastical power, ministry, or function with harm to another is to be punished with a just penalty.” Certainly bishops who have knowingly or negligently re-assigned a known priest child-abuser to yet another parish have performed an act of ecclesiastical power that has caused harm to another, i.e., the additional child victims.

In his announcement, Cardinal Levada re-affirms that “the right, as mandated by the Roman Pontiff to judge…bishops” belongs to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. It is time for some of those canonical trials of bishops who have re-assigned priests with a known history of child sexual abuse to start. Only then will we laity know that the church has a legal system that really works. It’s up to you, Cardinal Levada, to fill in this missing part of the church’s law.


 A good suggestion for Cardinal Levada indeed. You can email directly:

Cardinal William Joseph Levada

Prefect, Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith


It is time for canonical trials of bishops who have re-assigned priests

with a known history of child sexual abuse.

One thought on “The Elephant in the Sanctuary

  1. This is so right and timely. Seems to me that the failure of the “curia” to invoke Canon 1389 is just further clergy abuse at the highest levels of church management (I refuse to call them “hierarchy” any longer, because I do not recognize them as leadership of the church). Is there a provision that would enable the church (that’s us) to ask or force the use of 1389?

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