John Allen reports on the fourth bishop to be “fired” in sixteen months. The Holy Father seems to be pulling the trigger finger, but not in what you would consider high-profile sees. Central Africa, Sicily, the Australian outback, and now an archbishop in Eastern Europe. Even the interpid NCR writer seems at a loss. The best he can come up with is financial irregularities from Archbishop Róbert Bezák’s predecessor.
In the face of U.S. lawsuits seeking to hold the pope ultimately responsible for pedophile priests, the Holy See has argued that bishops are largely masters of their dioceses and that the pope doesn’t really control them. The Vatican has thus sought to limit any liability to the bishops themselves, arguing that the pope doesn’t exercise sufficient control over them to be held responsible for their bungled response to priests who rape children.
The ability of the pope to actively fire bishops, and not just passively accept their resignations, would seem to undercut the Vatican’s argument. Still, no bishop in recent memory has been forcibly removed for mishandling an abuse case.
It will be predictable that child welfare advocates hammer home the point about letting abuse-enablers go free. But for every firing, you have a few bishops like Joseph Martino of Scranton who resign and can take their pick of reasons to explain it away. And who knows? Maybe the resignations are all covers for serious wrongdoing. Or maybe the Congregation of Bishops is paying too close attention to the hermeneutic of nepotism.
So, keep guessing, people. The archbishop acknowledged at Mass this weekend he’s been muzzled. He’s not talking. Rome’s not talking. Did somebody mention recently something about a dialogue of the deaf?