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Bishops who mishandle abuse must be accountable, says Vatican official

A nun prays at a penitential vigil at Rome's St Ignatius church, held for participants of the symposium (PA photo)

Bishops who mishandle abuse cases should be punished using existing canon law, the Vatican’s top prosecutor has said.

Mgr Charles Scicluna, the Promoter of Justice in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, told a summit in Rome that Church leaders must be held accountable “to their people”.

He said it was unacceptable for bishops to ignore protocols – either established by the bishops’ conference or the Vatican – about handling allegations of abuse.

He added that the Church in Ireland had “paid a very high price for the mistakes of some of its shepherds”.

One Irish bishop, Bishop John Magee of Cloyne, was found to have ignored guidelines about reporting abuse as recently as 2009. Mgr Scicluna did not mention the case specifically, but said: “When set standards are not followed, this is unacceptable.”

Mgr Scicluna was speaking to the press during a four-day symposium on the sexual abuse crisis entitled Toward Healing and Reconciliation.

He said: “We need to be vigilant in choosing candidates for the important role of bishop, and we also need to use the tools that canonical law and tradition give us for the accountability of bishops.”

Mgr Scicluna explained that there was already provisions in Church law to sanction bishops for “negligence and malice in exercising one’s duties”. He said this provision should be more vigorously applied.