Pope fires Slovak bishop in rare show of authority

Jul 3, 2012, 7:09 AM

Associated Press

VATICAN CITY (AP) – Pope Benedict XVI fired a 52-year-old Slovak bishop for apparently mismanaging his diocese in a rare show of papal power over bishops that could have implications for U.S. sex abuse cases.

Usually when bishops run into trouble _ either for alleged moral lapses or management problems _ they are persuaded by the Vatican to resign. But Benedict has become increasingly willing to forcibly remove bishops who refuse to step down, sacking three others in the past year alone.

His willingness to do so raises questions about whether he would take the same measures against bishops who covered up for sexually abusive priests. So far he has not.

In the most notable case to date, Benedict fired Bishop William Morris of Toowoomba, Australia, last year after he called for the church to consider ordaining women and married men. He also removed a Congolese bishop for management problems in his diocese and an Italian one in May for similar reasons.

On Monday, the Vatican said Benedict had “relieved from pastoral care” Bishop Robert Bezak of Trnava, Slovakia. No reason was given, but Italian news reports suggested administrative problems were to blame, and Slovak news reports quoted Bezak as saying he thought his criticism of his predecessor may have had a role.

Bishops normally hand in their resignation when they turn 75 years old, their customary retirement age.

The exercise of the pope’s ability to fire a bishop has important implications, particularly concerning bishops who mishandle pedophile priests.

In the face of U.S. lawsuits seeking to hold the pope ultimately responsible for abusive 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 its own liability, arguing that the pope doesn’t exercise sufficient control over the bishops 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 of a hands-off pope.

“If the pope can fire a bishop, that implies he’s their supervisor,” said Nick Cafardi, a U.S. canon lawyer and former chairman of the U.S. bishops’ lay review board that monitored clerical abuse. “This will invite more lawsuits attempting to sue the pope in American courts.”

Jeffrey Anderson, who is seeking to hold the Holy See liable for a case of an abusive priest in Oregon, said the Vatican was trying to have it both ways.

“They will remove, using their canon laws and their own protocols, bishops, priests and clerics for any reasons _ for theological or any other reasons _ but when it comes to sexual misconduct, they never use those same standards,” he said.

Even the most well-known case, that of Cardinal Bernard Law, ended when Law offered his resignation after the sex abuse scandal exploded in his Boston archdiocese 2002. Law subsequently was named archpriest of one of the Vatican’s basilicas in Rome, St. Mary Major.

That said, things may be changing: The Vatican’s sex crimes prosecutor, Monsignor Charles Scicluna, warned in February that bishops could face possible church sanctions for malicious or fraudulent negligence if they fail to follow the Vatican’s rules on handling sexually abusive priests. But he acknowledged that such bishop accountability needed to be “further developed.”

___

Follow Nicole Winfield at
www.twitter.com/nwinfield.

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

World News

(Photo by John Phillips/Getty Images for BoF VOICES)...
Associated Press

Vivienne Westwood, influential fashion maverick, dies at 81

Vivienne Westwood, an influential fashion maverick who played a key role in the punk movement, died Thursday at 81.
1 month ago
FILE - British Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks during his first Cabinet meeting flanked by his ...
Associated Press

Rishi Sunak: UK’s ex-Treasury chief gets his shot at PM job

LONDON (AP) — Rishi Sunak ran for Britain’s top job and lost. Then he got another shot — and the chance to say “I told you so.” The former U.K. Treasury chief was runner-up to Liz Truss in the contest to replace the scandal-plagued Boris Johnson as Conservative Party leader and prime minister. But Truss […]
3 months ago
Britain's Prime Minister Liz Truss addresses the media in Downing Street in London, Thursday, Oct. ...
Associated Press

Truss quits, but UK’s political and economic turmoil persist

LONDON (AP) — British Prime Minister Liz Truss quit Thursday after a tumultuous and historically brief term marred by economic policies that roiled financial markets and a rebellion in her political party that obliterated her authority. After just 45 days in office, Truss became the third Conservative prime minister to be toppled in as many […]
3 months ago
People receive medical treatment at the scene of Russian shelling, in Kyiv, Ukraine, Monday, Oct. 1...
Associated Press

Russia unleashes biggest attacks in Ukraine in months

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Russia retaliated Monday for an attack on a critical bridge by unleashing its most widespread strikes against Ukraine in months, a lethal barrage that smashed civilian targets, knocked out power and water, shattered buildings and killed at least 14 people. Ukraine’s Emergency Service said nearly 100 people were wounded in the […]
4 months ago
This illustration made available by Johns Hopkins APL and NASA depicts NASA's DART probe, upper rig...
Associated Press

NASA spacecraft smashes into asteroid for defense test

A NASA spacecraft rammed an asteroid at blistering speed Monday in an unprecedented dress rehearsal for the day a killer rock menaces Earth.
4 months ago
Associated Press

At least 9 killed as Iran protests over woman’s death spread

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Clashes between Iranian security forces and protesters angry over the death of a 22-year-old woman in police custody have killed at least nine people since the violence erupted over the weekend, according to a tally Thursday by The Associated Press. The scope of Iran’s ongoing unrest, the worst in […]
4 months ago

Sponsored Articles

...
Quantum Fiber

How high-speed fiber internet edges out cable for everyday use

In a world where technology drives so much of our daily lives, a lack of high-speed internet can be a major issue.
...
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Prep the plumbing in your home just in time for the holidays

With the holidays approaching, it's important to know when your home is in need of heating and plumbing updates before more guests start to come around.
...
Quantum Fiber

How high-speed fiber internet can improve everyday life

Quantum Fiber supplies unlimited data with speeds up to 940 mbps, enough to share 4K videos with coworkers 20 times faster than a cable.
Pope fires Slovak bishop in rare show of authority