Pope Francis appoints Archbishop Scicluna to top role in addressing abuse crisis

Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta arrives in Osorno, Chile, on June 14, beginning a pastoral mission to promote healing in the wake of a clerical sexual abuse crisis. (CNS photo/courtesy of Archdiocese of Santiago)Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta arrives in Osorno, Chile, on June 14, beginning a pastoral mission to promote healing in the wake of a clerical sexual abuse crisis. (CNS photo/courtesy of Archdiocese of Santiago)

Pope Francis has appointed Archbishop Charles Scicluna as secretary adjunct of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The pope’s decision gives the Maltese archbishop the lead role in the fight against abuse in the church and in the protection of minors.

The Vatican broke the news at midday on Nov. 13 in a statement adding that Archbishop Scicluna “will retain his role as archbishop of Malta.” Adjunct secretary is the joint number two position in the C.D.F., a senior role which he shares with the Italian archbishop Giacomo Morandi under the prefect of that congregation, the Spanish born Jesuit, Cardinal Luis Ladaria Ferrer. By appointing Scicluna to this important position, Pope Francis is assigning him the lead role in the Vatican in dealing with all matters relating to the abuse crisis, suggesting his determination to deal decisively with the scandal.

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An informed source told America that Archbishop Scicluna will divide his time between Rome and Malta, but whether that continues to be the situation remains to be seen.

This surprise announcement came as the Vatican prepares for an unprecedented summit meeting of the presidents of some 130 bishops conferences from all continents in February called by Pope Francis to address the question of the protection of minors in the church and the crucial issue of accountability.

Archbishop Scicluna has long been the face of the Catholic Church in the fight to eliminate the sexual abuse of minors and vulnerable adults by clergy and its cover-up by bishops and heads of religious orders. He enjoys enormous credibility among both survivors and bishops worldwide for his work in this field.

Archbishop Scicluna has long been the face of the Catholic Church in the fight to eliminate the sexual abuse of minors and vulnerable adults by clergy.

Born in Toronto to Maltese parents, he returned with them to Malta as a child, where he grew up and was educated. After gaining degrees in civil and canon law, Pope John Paul II called then Monsignor Scicluna to work in the Vatican in 1995 in the Segnatura Apostolica, its Supreme Tribunal.

Then in 2002, as the abuse scandal erupted in the United States and other places, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, prefect of the C.D.F., called the Maltese monsignor to work at his side as promoter of justice or chief prosecutor at the C.D.F. in dealing with cases of the sexual abuse of minors and vulnerable adults by clergy. In the following 10 years no fewer than 3,000 priests were removed by Rome from ministry, and Archbishop Scicluna emerged as the public face of the Vatican in the fight against child abuse.

In April 2005, Cardinal Ratzinger sent Archbishop Scicluna to investigate allegations of abuse against Father Maciel Degollado, the founder of the Legionaries of Christ. He had just begun that investigation, listening to witnesses in New York when St. John Paul II died, but he continued his work. He returned to Rome on the eve of the 2005 conclave and reported back to Cardinal Ratzinger, who some days later was elected pope. His report soon led to the conviction and removal from public ministry of Father Degollado, a very powerful figure in the church who had many friends and defenders in the highest places in the Vatican.

The Maltese monsignor soon became the Pope Benedict’s right-hand man in implementing his “zero tolerance” policy against priests and religious who abuse minors and children. He was also one of those who ably defended Benedict in 2010 against the charges made in Germany that as archbishop of Munich he had re-assigned a priest abuser within the diocese. Archbishop Scicluna played a key role in drafting the new norms for the church’s handling of questions of abuse of minors by priests, norms that are now meant to be operational throughout the Catholic Church, even if not all conferences are living up to this standard.

Such fearless action did not always make him friends in the Vatican, and this is said to be one of the reasons why Benedict XVI appointed Archbishop Scicluna as coadjutor to the archbishop of Malta on Oct. 6, 2012. Two months later, however, the same pope appointed him to the board of the C.D.F. enabling him to continue to make his contribution in dealing with abuse cases.

After becoming pope, Francis began to assign important roles to the Maltese prelate. In 2014, he sent Archbishop Scicluna to Geneva to testify before the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child and in April of that year sent him to Scotland to collect testimonies of abuse against Cardinal Keith O'Brien, the former archbishop of St. Andrews and Edinburgh, who resigned in 2013 after admitting to sexual misconduct. As a result of his investigation, Francis deprived the late Cardinal O’Brien of all his rights and duties as a cardinal, and only left him with the title.

In February 2015, Pope Francis appointed Archbishop Scicluna as archbishop of Malta. Later, he appointed him as president of the C.D.F.’s Tribunal of Appeals, dealing with the appeals from clergy following the first C.D.F. judgment against them. That tribunal, composed of seven senior Vatican officials, hears around five cases at its monthly session.

Earlier this year, soon after returning from his visit to Chile, Pope Francis sent Archbishop Scicluna to listen to victims of abuse by the predator priest (now laicized) Fernando Karadima. The Maltese archbishop began that work in New York and then traveled to Santiago. He reported back to the pope, giving him a 2,300 page dossier.

As a result of that investigation, Francis first sent a letter of apology to the faithful and victims in Chile and then invited some of the main survivors to meet him in the Vatican and reside there as his guests. Subsequently, the pope summoned all the Chilean bishops to Rome for a meeting, at the end of which they all submitted their resignations. He has already accepted nine of them and removed two bishops from the priesthood in addition to the former priest Karadima.

Today’s announcement reveals the trust Pope Francis has in Archbishop Scicluna. He has called him to work part-time in the Vatican as his closest advisor in handling the abuse crisis and, according to sources, may at some future day give him even more responsibility.

[Explore America’s in-depth coverage of the abuse crisis]

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Jeffrey More
1 month ago

Presumably this explains the cease and desist order delivered to Cardinal DiNardo on Sunday, and announced to general shock yesterday at the USCCB meeting in Baltimore. This could be a very positive development - let's hope so. Wouldn't it be nice to see the Vatican act with good intentions for a change?

Annette Magjuka
1 month ago

I am remembering Marie Collins, a survivor who served on the Vatican commission for three years and finally quit in frustration in 2017. Talk, talk, talk, talk. It is time for ACTION! I am dubious that the church will ever do the right thing. Too bad, because the Catholic theology has helped me so much in life. Lifelong daily conscience formation is powerful. Too bad the abusive priests and the corrupt bishops who shield them do not engage in this practice.

Vincent Couling
1 month ago

This is indeed good news ... Pope Francis shows deep wisdom in appointing Abp Charles Scicluna as secretary adjunct of the CDF. Abp Charles has been fearless, honest and truthful in dealing with clerical abuse in the church, and appears to have held those who have been abused as his priority and focal point, showing deep pastoral sensitivity towards them. I think that he is the right person for this role.

Some news sources have been reporting that the US bishops have been asked by the Vatican to hold off on a vote on their new sex abuse protocols because they contain flaws ... "Multiple sources told Crux that there were serious problems under Church law with several of the proposals the bishops had developed, which were only finalized Oct. 30, giving the Vatican precious little time to react ... According to that view, Ouellet actually did the USCCB a favor by asking them to cool their heels, avoiding a scenario in which their proposals had to be shot down in Rome, thereby exposing them for not doing their homework" ... https://cruxnow.com/news-analysis/2018/11/13/making-sense-of-vaticans-n…

George White
1 month ago

As an acknowledgement of the depth of the crisis of trust in the Church today, how much better it would have been for a layman to have been appointed to lead this sort of investigation.

Mark M
1 month ago

Because, George, this Vatican considers the layman as medieval fodder to be lied to and deceived and ignored for as long as absolutely possible. This pope acts as a ruler, not as a shepherd.
This appointment reaffirms that...in spades.

Jim Spangler
1 month ago

I find the whole thing disgusting and another inability for the Vatican to take charge and to be transparent. Everything will be hush, hush, Papal secret. The Laity are to be cowering serfs, that still need stain glass windows, and statues in order to understand the faith. May God spite everyone who is involved with this homosexual travisty.

Karen Silver
1 month ago

It is and will remain seriously problematic for the church as an institution and for the Catholic in the pews. The parishioner is being asked to trust the priest's dedication to his vows and his mental health and the priest is asked to forego adult love relations eirher with men or women and still remain balanced. That's a lot to ask on both sides.

arthur mccaffrey
1 month ago

so, does that mean that Cardinal Sean O'Malley of Boston is out as the lead man on the investigation of child abuse?----or that he continues in a diminished role?----or that that this is more window dressing by Francis?
-----or......what does it mean? does anyone know anymore?
And why do I feel that my intelligence is being insulted once again when reporter O'Connell (normally a sober writer) writes "suggesting his determination to deal decisively with the scandal." Puhlease!!

Michael Barberi
4 weeks 1 day ago

1. I wonder what role Archbishop Scicluna will play in determining if JP II committed gross negligence when reliable sexual abuse evidence existed about McCarrick when he promoted him to Cardinal?

2. I also wonder "who" will be doing the investigations of sexual abuse allegations in the PA Grand Jury Report, the Vigano Letter and in the entire McCarrick scandal?
> Will the investigators be a independent lay-lead committee with full access to all records, emails and other forms of evidence?
> What will be the responsibilities and the authority of this committee and Archbishop Scicluna?

3. Who will issue a 'report of findings and conclusions'? Will the findings and conclusions be subject to the review and editing of Archbishop Scicluna?

Vincent Couling
4 weeks ago

Michael, the evidence begins to point towards gross negligence on the part of JPII ... see https://www.thetablet.co.uk/news/11007/new-book-throws-light-on-vigan-a… ...

"A new claim made in the book is that McCarrick’s sexual misconduct – which included inviting seminarians to share his bed at a beach house – was reported to the Vatican in 1999, a few months before Pope John Paul II appointed McCarrick Archbishop of Washington. Cardinal John O’Connor, Archbishop of New York, according to the authors’ sources, "wrote a heartfelt letter” to Rome in which he referred to “homosexual harassment” by McCarrick. “He declared that McCarrick was charismatic, very good at raising funds,” the book explains. “O'Connor remembered that he had recommended him in the past but that now, in conscience, he felt that he should not be chosen [for Washington].”

The writers add that Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, who held the post of “sostituto”, a papal chief of staff equivalent from 1989-2000 before becoming Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops two months ahead of McCarrick’s appointment to Washington, was also opposed to the nomination. If true this detail would correspond with Viganò’s claim that Cardinal Re had told him that McCarrick was fourteenth on the list for Washington. The decision to transfer Archbishop McCarrick from Newark to Washington, according to Tornielli and Valente, was made in the “papal apartments” without being discussed by the Congregation for Bishops. By “apartments”, read Pope John Paul II and his closest aide, Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, longtime personal secretary to the Polish Pope, and now the retired Archbishop of Krakow.

Tornielli and Valente report how John Paul II was impressed by McCarrick during his 1995 papal visit to the United States, which had begun in Newark. McCarrick, then Archbishop of Newark, had learnt some Polish after spending two years working with immigrants from Poland. He was solid on doctrine and committed to social action. He would be able to wield the levers of power in Washington and was in the room when President Bill Clinton met John Paul II during that 1995 trip.

Nevertheless, rumours about McCarrick’s behaviour with seminarians persisted with the United States nunciature receiving a letter from the Dominican priest Fr Boniface Ramsey in 2000. What sources tell the authors of the new book is that when confronted McCarrick emphatically denied claims against him, describing them as false and slanderous. No individual seminarians came forward with testimony, and there was a reluctance on John Paul II’s part to believe the concerns. Smearing priests with allegations of sexual misconduct or abuse was a strategy that had frequently been used by the Communist party in his Polish homeland."

Anthony Rotz
3 weeks 2 days ago

Should young gay men be in a seminary with other young gay men, all of course, attracted to those of the same sex? Isn't it the same as putting young straight men, in the same situation, with young straight females attracted to those of the opposite sex? Interplay is bound to happen in either situation. I do believe that the shift to a married Priesthood is inevitable, at least to a majority.

Vincent Couling
3 weeks 1 day ago

"Isn't it the same as putting young straight men, in the same situation, with young straight females attracted to those of the opposite sex? Interplay is bound to happen ... " ... gosh, perhaps this is the real reason why "the church" doesn't want to ordain women!

Anthony Rotz
3 weeks 1 day ago

Not quite, women and men differ by appearance and could be separated by separate seminaries, though I'm not in favor of women Priests, maybe female deacons would be possible. BTW while I do not judge the gay or homosexual, "the person", I can judge the act as intrinsically wrong, even evil.

Vincent Couling
3 weeks 1 day ago

Sweet pea, for all I care you can judge the moon as made of green cheese.

Personally, what I do care about is that the "Vatican changes course, reinstates Jesuit head of German university: Father Ansgar Wucherpfennig says he hopes church teaching on homosexuality and women’s roles in the Church would develop and become more open." https://international.la-croix.com/news/vatican-changes-course-reinstat…

When women are admitted to seminaries, surely they will commingle with the male students rather than be segregated on account of gender, just as at secular institutes of higher education. After the horrors of child sex-abuse, surely we are wanting mature, well-integrated priests! Priests who are not afraid of being near or around women!

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