Today the Vatican announced that they would create a tribunal “for judging bishops accused of covering up or failing to act in cases of child sexual abuse by priests.” writes Elisabetta Povoledo and Laurie Goodstein for the New York Times. Not so buried in the story are two examples of criminal charges against Archbishop John C. Nienstedt of Minneapolis and St. Paul, whose archdiocese was indicted last week on charges related to the cover-up of sexual abuse of children. Then we have “Bishop Robert W. Finn of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph in Missouri, who was convicted on a misdemeanor charge for negligently handling a case involving a pedophile priest.” Plus Pell in Australia, the gay marriage vote in Ireland, which was seen as an “an unmitigated disaster” for the Catholic Church and well, that whole UN investigation and committee hearings into crimes against humanity and torture of children. Not the best PR for the PR Pope.
So what will this tribunal do? Who tells them that someone needs to be investigated?
For instance this past March the vatican appointed Bishop Juan Barros as the new Bishop of the southern Chilean diocese of Osorno. Barros has been not only accused of covering up for the notorious pedophile Reverend Fernando Karadima, in some cases Barros is accused of observing the abuse. Just to make sure he was actually covering up for a pedophile and not some poser. Still the Holy See found “no objective reason” not to make the appointment. Even as the Vatican found Karadima guilty of sexually abusing kids. Obviously Barros would never make it in front of this tribunal. He gets a new appointment.
Then there is the case of Jozef Wesolowski, defrocked archbishop of the Dominican who was called back to Rome avoiding criminal charges in the Dominican and who has been under house arrest within the walls of the Vatican. In an apartment. Because of his health. An awful lot of people pay 15 euros to get inside the walls of the Vatican to see the Sistine Chapel. His apartment is somewhere around there. For free.
The tribunal is good PR, especially with the charges filed in Minnesota. They want to look like they are in the prosecution game too. But if their very recent past actions are any indication, it’s just another PR stunt.