Canon Law Expert Says US Bishops Not Morally Responsible for Sex Abuse

Commenting on child sex abuse in the Catholic Church, Reverend Gianfranco Ghirlanda, Dean of Canon Law Faculty at Pontificial Gregorian University in Rome, argued that bishops should not inform their parishioners if a priest has committed pedophilia because the priest “would be totally discredited in front of his parochial community and in fact would be blocked from any effective pastoral action.” Ghirlanda’s comments come after the eruption of the child sex abuse scandal in the US. In June, US bishops will meet in Dallas to discuss the scandal and a response to it. According to Ghirlanda, however, bishops “are neither morally nor judicially responsible for the acts committed by their clergy.” Ghirlanda’s comments appeared in Civilta Cattolica, a Jesuit magazine BBC News describes as “Vatican-approved.”

Catholics in the US have voiced hesitancy about whether any plan devised by the US Bishops would be accepted by the Vatican. Reverend Thomas Reese, editor of a US Jesuit publication, commented that, “Whatever the US bishops do, it looks like they may have an uphill fight to get some of it approved by the Vatican.” According to BBC News, some Vatican officials have expressed dissatisfaction with the US bishops’ response to the scandal thus far, and at least one official has argued that bishops should be able to withhold information on priests suspected of pedophilia from prosecutors. Meanwhile, in the US both bishops and priests will have to contend with the American legal system.


BBC News, 5/18/02

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