Pope Francis has announced a tribunal to investigate and remove bishops who failed to protect children who were sexually abused by priests. The decision comes after years of scandals in which senior Roman Catholic clergy were accused of covering up molestation and rape cases.
To date, no bishop has ever been removed, or even punished, for allowing abusive members of the clergy to commit their crimes. One US bishop was allowed to resign earlier this year for failing to report a suspected child abuser.
The United Nations released a scathing report last year detailing the “code of silence” surrounding abuse cases, alleging that the church systematically implemented policies that endangered children, and that in some countries clergy obstructed investigations in criminal or civil cases.
The new tribunal will be formed under the auspices of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican said in a statement. It will hear complaints related to “abuse of office” by bishops, making it the first official mechanism to judge these cases. The measures were recommended by an advisory panel on sexual abuse, and approved by the pope.
One case of an abusive priest and the effort to cover up his crimes is portrayed in the Oscar-nominated 2006 documentary “Deliver Us From Evil.”