~ Michael O’ Loughlin, America, The Jesuit Review
Preliminary discussion about proposals aimed at bishop accountability evinced some frustration among U.S. bishops at their spring general assembly this week in Baltimore, especially when it comes to the degree of lay involvement that can be mandated to be a part of the process. Bishops expressed their intention to adopt protocols aimed at accountability, but they are still hammering out the details ahead of a vote on Thursday.
Bishop Robert P. Deeley, who heads the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops committee on canonical affairs and church governance, told the assembly that any rules they adopt cannot exceed a policy promulgated by Pope Francis last month in the moto propio “Vos estis lux mundi.” In that document, the Vatican decreed that allegations of sexual abuse or misconduct, as well as mismanagement leveled against a bishop must be investigated by a metropolitan bishop or someone he appoints, or by a senior suffragan bishop if the metropolitan is accused. It suggests that bishops rely on lay experts to carry out the investigation but stops short of mandating lay involvement. Several U.S. bishops have said that as a result, they cannot mandate lay involvement in their own protocols. Some bishops sought reassurance that lay people will be involved in every stage of future investigations.
“A number of us are looking for ways to insert into the plan more robust lay involvement,” Bishop Robert McElroy of San Diego told the plenary group. He asked if the USCCB could adopt a rule that says that anyone enlisted to examine allegations of misconduct or mismanagement by a bishop “needs to be a lay investigator.”
Bishop Deeley said no.
“We have said that he ‘should’ use lay people, the bishop said, but added, “we cannot say ‘must.’”
The possibility that bishops would have the option of handling claims of misconduct or mismanagement without the involvement of lay people troubled Franceco Cesareo.