Teflon Bishops

Jason Berry writes,

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith … has one set of punitive rules for predator priests, and virtually none for bishops and cardinals.

In 2002, the American bishops adopted a youth protection charter that mandated lay review boards to research back cases and monitor new allegations of clergy abuse. … The problem, however, is that the Vatican insisted that bishops and cardinals be excluded from the purview of the lay review boards.

Since the 1990s, at least 15 bishops and one cardinal — the late Hans Hermann Groer of Austria — have left their public positions after being reported for sexually abusing young people. Not one was removed as a titular bishop; they simply “stepped down.” Anthony O’Connell of Palm Beach, Fla., lives in a South Carolina monastery, to cite an example. Lawsuits compensated some of the bishops’ victims; the bishops weren’t criminally prosecuted because of statutes of limitations. The abusive bishops followed the route of hiearchs who, after egregiously recycling sex offenders, “resigned.”

Bishops are not stripped of their titles because to do so would violate the embedded logic of apostolic succession, that bishops are spiritual descendants of Jesus’s apostles. Fattened by hubris, the tradition of apostolic succession has forgotten about Judas, who betrayed Jesus.

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has laicized hundreds of priests but no bishop.

And of course, no bishop has been excommunicated for either his own crimes or for covering up the crimes of others.

Related to this, John Allen reports that the Vatican has found it useful to emphasize the autonomy of individual bishops in trying to protect itself from legal fallout.