Pope Francis has announced that the Catholic bishops who fail to report cases of sex abuse of children can be removed from office.
In a letter published on Saturday, the pope explained that bishops found guilty of negligence when dealing with cases of sexual abuse of minors and vulnerable adults will be investigated and under the new decree can be dismissed from office.
“As a loving mother, the Church loves all her children, but treats and protects with a very particular affection the smaller and helpless. This is a task that Christ entrusted to the entire Christian community as a whole. With this in mind, the Church is vigilant in protecting children and vulnerable adults,” he noted.
The pope further clarified that Vatican offices have the jurisdiction to sack bishops in such cases.
With the decree coming into force from September 5, the pontiff aims to implement what he promised last year when he approved a Vatican tribunal to judge bishops accused of covering up or failing to prevent abuse of minors.
Last September, Pope Francis pledged zero tolerance for anyone in the church who abuses children, likening such abuse to a “satanic mass”.
Reports of serial sex abuse by priests and systematic cover-ups by the Catholic leadership exploded in the US media in 2002.
Approximately 6,900 US Roman Catholic priests were accused of sexual abuse with at least 16,900 young victims between 1950 and 2011, according to data from the US Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Similar patterns of abuse have since emerged at dioceses around the globe, undermining the church’s moral authority and depleting its finances as it paid out billions of dollars in settlements.
Pope Francis in 2014 established a Vatican commission intended to establish best practices to root out abuse in parishes.
Some theologians have argued that the church’s policy on celibacy fosters sexual dysfunction and abusive behavior among priests.