Catholic Whistleblowers appreciates the efforts of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors to hold accountable those bishops and religious major superiors who have failed to deal with priests who have sexually abused minors. We especially commend the two members of the Commission who are victims / survivors of clergy sexual abuse, Irishwoman Marie Collins and Englishman Peter Saunders, for their strong and publicly stated commitment to truth, justice, and healing.
Yet, we also note that the Commission does not need to reinvent the wheel. The Code of Canon Law already provides the way for Pope Francis to deal with these bishops and religious superiors.
Indeed, the pope has power and authority over all of the Church which he is always able to exercise freely (cc. 331, 333, §1 and 590, §1). And nothing in Church law prohibits the application of Church law by the pope regarding bishops and religious superiors.
Simply said, the actions that a diocesan bishop can take regarding a priest against whom there is an allegation of sexual abuse of a minor also are available for the pope to use in holding accountable bishops and religious superiors. To begin, the allegation against the bishop or religious superior would be that through his culpable negligence he has harmed people by not dealing with the abusive priest (c. 1389, §2). Next, just as the diocesan bishop would begin a penal process to investigate the allegation, so too the pope should begin a penal process regarding the bishop or religious superior to investigate their actions (cc. 1717-1731). Then and so as to prevent scandal , while the investigation is going on, just as the diocesan bishop can do regarding the priest, so too the pope can temporarily remove the bishop or religious superior from office and prohibit him from the public exercise of ministry (c. 1722).
Of course, the investigation must run its course so that justice may prevail.
Hence, Catholic Whistleblowers calls upon Pope Francis to use his already existing power and authority to hold accountable those bishops and religious major superiors who have failed to deal priests who have sexually abused minors. Doing so will help to prevent further scandal and to begin the long road to rebuild trust among the people in the Church’s leaders.