There are many valid criticisms of Pope Francis. There are many valid criticisms of the Catholic Church. But it’s good to see Pope Francis taking steps to crack down on corruption within the Catholic Church by holding leaders accountable for their actions.
Specifically, he’s calling for bishops or cardinals who are accused of crimes to be tried by the same court that hears other crimes, not a special court made up of their peers. It’s a way to decrease possible corruption and special treatment among the highest ranking members of the Church hierarchy:
Francis issued a decree abrogating a provision in the Vatican’s civil criminal code whereby bishops and cardinals were judged only by the Court of Cassation, a top body made up of cardinals and other high-ranking clergy.
In recent years, there have been several cases where lay people caught up in criminal investigations were judged and sentenced by the ordinary tribunal, which is made up of non-clerics, while cardinals involved in the same cases were not judged at all or received special treatment.
Whether the change will lead to more prosecutions remains to be seen. Maybe the bigger question is why so many high-ranking Catholic leaders end up accused of such crimes in the first place that they need to have special rules regarding the type of court that needs to adjudicate these cases.
While this is a good and necessary step, there needs to be more action taken. If that means cooperating with secular authorities, so be it. (Has handling corruption in-house ever worked for the Catholic Church?) The rules need to go further than financial crimes, too.
As important as it is that the Church take these steps — and the pope has taken others recently — it would be far more effective if the pope did more to prevent these possible crimes from occurring instead of having to deal with them after the fact.
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