Pope Francis strengthens anti-abuse arm within Vatican's doctrinal office

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Pope Francis has overhauled the structure of one of the oldest bodies within the Vatican, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

In this “Motu Proprio” letter titled “To serve the faith,” the Pope declares that the congregation will now be divided into two sections: a doctrinal section concerned with promoting and protecting Church teaching, and a disciplinary section to handle crimes committed within the Church, including responding to cases of abuse committed by clergy.

Meeting with the congregation in January, Pope Francis highlighted its role in delivering justice to victims of abuse. 

'The Church, with God's help, is steadfastly pursuing her commitment to bring justice to victims abused by her members, applying the established canonical legislation with special care and rigor. (Judicial action) alone cannot be enough to curb this phenomenon, but it is a necessary step to restore justice, repair the scandal and amend the offender.'

While it will be overseen by a Cardinal, the disciplinary section will be headed by legal experts and have its own secretary, giving it more institutional power.

A change which signals increasing efforts to hold members of the Church accountable for their actions.

The doctrinal section, on the other hand, is responsible for the “promotion and protection” of matters of faith. The Pope's letter puts greater emphasis on the congregation's role in evangelization, a responsibility he says falls on all members of the Church.

'That is also the mission of each one of us: to be credible messengers, to be prophets of God's word in the world.'

He writes that this new structure will give the congregation an approach “more suited to the fulfillment of the functions proper to it,” which includes sharing the faith and ensuring that grave actions committed in the Church don't slip through the cracks. 


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