(RNS) — As the sexual abuse scandal surrounding Cardinal Theodore McCarrick continued to spread in the past week, Cardinal Sean O’Malley, who heads the Catholic Church’s Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, acknowledged on Monday (July 23) that “a major gap still exists in the church’s policies on sexual conduct and sexual abuse.”
O’Malley, who is also the archbishop of Boston, noted that while the church has a zero-tolerance policy for the sexual abuse of minors by priests, there is a need for clearer norms and procedures for investigating and judging bishops. But O’Malley’s statement raises further questions.
Who will set the norms for bishops?
Under canon law today, only the pope has authority over bishops and cardinals, although there were examples of bishops being tried by provincial councils in the ancient church. That is why only priests and deacons are subject to the norms and procedures set by the United States Catholic bishops for dealing with accusations of sexual abuse. The bishops conference does not have the authority to set norms for their own bishops.
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