According to some newspaper reports at least 12 of Ireland’s Catholic bishops may be subject to investigation by the new Vatican tribunal announced this week by Pope Francis.
The tribunal will hold bishops to account where it is claimed they failed to protect children from sexual abuse by priests.
It is being established following a proposal by the Vatican Commission for the Protection of Minors. It was unclear on Wednesday whether the tribunal could deal with retrospective cases of negligence by bishops, but it has now been confirmed that it will have such powers.
Catholic primate Archbishop Eamon Martin, told the media at Maynooth on Wednesday, “I think that justice is indeed retrospective. I mean when it comes to something like child safeguarding… just because something happened a long time ago doesn’t mean you’re not accountable for it now.”
He was speaking at the end of the Catholic bishops’ summer meeting. He admitted he and the other bishops were not fully aware of Pope Francis’s tribunal announcement earlier that day, “but I would welcome any decision by the Holy Father to hold all of us accountable”, he said.
He continued “I think what [Pope Francis is] really saying is that, look, when it comes to an issue as serious and as important as child safeguarding, everyone in society is accountable, and their office should not protect them.
“I think primarily we’re accountable to the State, we’re accountable to the police, to the criminal justice system.
What Pope Francis proposed was “ not a substitute for the criminal justice system”, he added
COMMENT: I have deliberately omitted the names of the bishops who MAY be investigated. There has been too much speculation on this matter – some` of it justified and some totally unjustified as has been proven by previous inquiries by State and Holy See. Some newspapers appear to have little, if any, respect for truth and justice, judging by how they are re-hashing long discredited allegations.