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This Isn't Working: On Vos Estis and Real Accountability

I post a LOT of news articles on the In Spirit and Truth Facebook page, and these articles eventually find their way to the blog's bi-weekly New Roundup. I know that I share more than most of you have the time or inclination to take in, and that's ok. But every once in a while a piece comes up that I really want everyone to read, and I thought it might be helpful to highlight one of those pieces here and encourage folks to check it out.


(For those of you who aren’t aware, BishopAccountability.org, the source of this piece, is a comprehensive website documenting the abuse crisis in the Catholic Church, with the internet's most extensive collection of files, databases, and articles on the topic. It’s an overwhelming amount of information to sort through, but if you want to find a news article about an abuse case from 30 years ago, a case that was only covered by a local newspaper which has since shut down its online archives - this is is the place to find it. Their daily “Bishop Accountability News” email is also the most comprehensive source I have found for a variety of current news pieces on the topic.


All of that is just a long way of saying - the people at Bishop Accountability have been at this for years, and they know their stuff.)


In the piece I am highlighting, co-director Anne Barrett Doyle offers a brief but pointed assessment of what has transpired in the year since Pope Francis’ muto proprio Vos Estis Lux Mundi was promulgated. How have these new rules been implemented in real life cases? What have we learned about the ability of bishops to be unbiased investigators of their fellow bishops? Have the updated procedures ushered in a new era of accountability and transparency for Catholic bishops?


Spoiler alert: The answers to these questions are not particularly encouraging.


As Doyle explains, “What's known of the cases so far does not inspire trust in the Vos Estis process. The cases exhibit inappropriate fraternal loyalty, Vatican stalling, and a lack of transparency.”


I have been following each of these cases myself, and I agree with Doyle's assessment. For the details, please take a moment and read the article here:


Assessment of Vos Estis Lux Mundi on Its First Anniversary


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This system clearly isn't working. I have quite a few ideas about how the process could be handled better, but perhaps we could start with this: The Vatican should make a public announcement at the beginning of any Vos Estis investigation, clearly stating what allegations are being investigated and by whom. At the close of any Vos Estis investigation, the Vatican should make a public announcement stating what was uncovered (with more specificity than “unacceptable behavior”) and what the consequences will be for that bishop.


I do not place a lot of hope in a system of bishops policing bishops, but if this is what we have for now, it could at least function with more transparency. Better communication would be a start.


(For more information, this thoughtful article offers more specific details about the case of Bishop Joseph Binzer and what it reveals about the ongoing problems with communication and transparency - In depth: A bishop’s resignation and the state of Church reform.)


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Let us pray:


Lord, have mercy.

Christ, have mercy.

Lord, have mercy.


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