06/04/2016, 19.14
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New dicastery set up for the laity and family life; bishops removed if "negligent" in sexual abuse cases

The Pontifical Council for the Laity and the Pontifical Council for the Family are merged into a new dicastery, which will work closely with the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family. The motu proprio ‘As a loving mother’ lays down rules for the removal of bishops, eparchs, and superiors negligent in cases of sexual abuse of minors and vulnerable adults.

Vatican City (AsiaNews) – The Holy See Press Office today issued two press releases today reporting two important decisions by Pope Francis.

The Holy Father has decided to set up a new dicastery ad experimentum dedicated to the laity, family, and life, which will take over the existing Pontifical Council for the Laity and the Pontifical Council for the Family.

In an apostolic letter, Come una madre amorevole (As a Loving Mother) issued in motu proprio, the pontiff also laid down rules for the removal from office of bishops in cases of "negligence" regarding the sexual abuse of children and vulnerable adults.

The new dicastery had already been announced as a possible part of the reform of the Roman Curia, since existing councils had similar jurisdictions.

As its charter indicates, the new body "promotes and organises international conferences and other initiatives with respect to the apostolate of the laity, the institution of marriage, the reality of the family, and life within the Church, as well as in relation to the human and social conditions of the laity, the institution of the family and human life within society.” Its aim is to strengthen "the evangelising action of lay believers in various sectors of temporal life" in the spirit of Gaudium et Spes.

As for the family and its mission, the new dicastery would help families by “favouring their rights and responsibilities within the Church and civil society, so that the institution of the family can always better carry out its mission both within the Church and society."

In order to perform this task, it will engage in close cooperation with the Pontifical Institute John Paul II for Studies on Marriage and Family, an international centre founded by Pope John Paul II to promote studies on marriage, family and life.

The dicastery, in its commitment to "responsible procreation" and "human life from conception to its natural end", will also work in cooperation with the Pontifical Academy for Life.

As for the motu proprio, it expands the list of "grave causes" by which bishops (or their equivalent, like eparchs, or superiors in religious institutes and apostolic communities of life) can be removed from office. Negligence with regard to cases of sexual abuse against minors or vulnerable adults is added to those already included in the Code of Canon Law.

Such matters will have to be submitted to the pontiff. They will be necessarily preceded by an investigation, "whereby the person concerned will be informed and given an opportunity to produce documents and witnesses" on his own behalf, as well as meetings between the bishop and the competent Vatican Congregation. The motu proprio shall come into force as of 5 September 2016.

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