Title: Pope releases Vatican reform, gives weight to fighting abuse
ROME — Pope Francis released his long-awaited reform program of the Holy See bureaucracy on Saturday that envisages greater decision-making roles for the laity and gives new institutional weight to efforts to fight clerical sex abuse.The 54-page text, titled “Praedicate Evanglium,” or “Proclaiming the Gospel,” replaces the founding constitution “Pastor Bonus” that was penned by St. John Paul II in 1988.
Much of the reform work has been rolled out piecemeal over the years, with offices consolidated and financial reforms issued. But the publication of the new document, for now only in Italian, finalizes the process and puts it into effect in June.
The document was released Saturday, the ninth anniversary of Francis’ installation as pope and the feast of St. Joseph, an important figure to Francis’ ministry.
The new reform emphasizes the missionary and charitable focus of the church as well as the need for the Vatican to be at service both to the pope and local dioceses. It envisages greater roles for laity, making explicitly clear that lay people — not just priests, bishops or cardinals — can head a major Vatican office, and that all staff should reflect the geographic universality of the church.
In one of the major changes, it brings the pope’s advisory commission on preventing sexual abuse into the Vatican’s powerful doctrine office which oversees the canonical investigations of abuse cases.
Previously, the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors existed as an ad hoc commission that reported to the pope but had no real institutional weight or power. It often found itself at odds with the more powerful Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which reviews all cases of abuse.
Now the advisory commission is part of the newly named Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, where presumably its members who include abuse survivors can exert influence on the decisions taken by the prelates who weigh whether predator priests are sanctioned and how.