Pope Francis gives thumbs up to remove bishops who botch abuse cases

Vatican City: Pope Francis has established legal procedures to remove bishops who botch the handling of sex abuse cases, saying they can be kicked out of office if the Vatican finds they were negligent in doing their jobs.

Pope Francis
Pope Francis

Francis answered a long-running demand by victims of abuse and their advocates to hold bishops accountable for failing to protect their flocks from paedophiles.

The law will hold bishops accountable for failing to protect their flocks from pedophiles. The church's canonical code allows for a bishop to be removed for "grave reasons."

Bishops "must undertake a particular diligence in protecting those who are the weakest among their flock," he wrote in the law, called motu proprio.

The statute alters the original proposal to establish a tribunal inside the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to hear negligence cases. In the law, Francis said a bishop can be removed if his actions or omissions cause "grave harm," either physical, moral, spiritual or financial, to individuals or communities.

The bishop doesn't need to be morally guilty: It's enough if he is purely lacking in the diligence required of his office. When the cases concern abuse, it's enough that the negligence is "serious," the law says.

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