U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops President and Louisville Archbishop Joseph Kurtz said U.S. bishops would welcome and cooperate with a new episcopal governing mechanism confirmed in an announcement from Rome this morning. The Vatican announced today that Pope Francis had accepted the recommendation from his group of cardinal advisors that a tribunal be established to review allegations against bishops who may have failed in their responsibility to protect children in their dioceses.
Responding to reporters at a press conference after the morning session of the bishops’ spring meeting in St. Louis, Kurtz said he would await further information from the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith on the form of the tribunal before commenting further. But, he said, “we’ve had a long track record in wanting to provide fraternal support and help to brother bishops” on establishing transparency in diocesan policies and living out the commitments and responsibilities of the 2002 Dallas Charter for the protection of children. “Protecting young people is a high priority,” he added. “In may ways the very painful experience we have had in the United States has also been a learning process for the church worldwide.”
Burlington, Vt., Bishop Christopher J. Coyne welcome the proposed tribunal as way to provide structure for addressing issues of the accountability and the response of bishops to the abuse of minors by Catholic clergy “so that everyone knows what the process is.”
Asked if the need for the new tribunal suggests that the notion of “fraternal correction,” that is that brother bishops were capable of policing themselves, had faltered, Miami Archbishop Thomas Wenski said there had been a process for dealing with transgressions among bishops, but it was all up to the pope. “Part of the problem is that the pope himself appoints and disciplines bishops,” he said. “It was all on his plate…there was just no structure there.”
Coyne added that he considered the new tribunal as a positive, “moving forward in terms of transparency and protecting children.”