New CDF Appointment Shows Vatican’s Concern About Clergy Abuse

The appointment of Archbishop Jose Mollaghan confirms Pope Francis’ commitment to continuing the response that began under St. John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI.

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis’ appointment Monday of Archbishop Jose Mollaghan of Rosario, Argentina, as a member of the Vatican’s doctrine office confirms the Holy See’s continuing response to the clergy sexual-abuse crisis.

The Argentine bishop was appointed to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, where he will be responsible for a commission, which is being set up, to examine appeals by clergy accused of delicta graviora (more grave crimes).

Delicta graviora are the most serious crimes in the Church and most notably include offenses against morality: the sexual abuse of a minor by a cleric; or the acquisition, possession or distribution of child pornography by a cleric.

Archbishop Mollaghan’s appointment signals Pope Francis’ commitment to continuing the Church’s response to sex abuse begun under Benedict XVI and St. John Paul II.

The archbishop was head of the Church’s sex-abuse commission in Argentina. He has also served as secretary general of the national bishops’ conference and as the Argentine delegate to the Latin American Bishops’ Council.

Archbishop Mollaghan, 68, was ordained a priest of the Buenos Aires Archdiocese in 1971. He holds a doctorate in canon law from the Pontifical Gregorian University. In 1993, he was consecrated as an auxiliary bishop of the archdiocese, serving alongside then-Bishop Jorge Bergoglio.

When Bishop Bergoglio was named archbishop of Buenos Aires, Bishop Mollaghan served under him until 2000, when he was appointed to the Diocese of San Miguel. He remained there until his 2005 appointment as archbishop of Rosario.

The new commission is the latest commitment made by Pope Francis against abuse by clergy.

In December, he established another commission to advise him on the protection of children and on how to assist those who have been victimized already.

 

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His predecessors were also greatly concerned with the issue.

Under St. John Paul II, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger — who was then prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith — established a strong response to allegations of sexual abuse, which he later continued as Pope Benedict XVI.

John Paul II’s efforts began with a 1988 letter, in which he shed light on how the procedures laid out in canon law made it difficult for bishops to laicize abusive priests.

In Sacramentorum Sanctitatis Tutela, a 2001 motu proprio, St. John Paul II transferred authority for investigating abuse cases from the Congregation for Clergy to Cardinal Ratzinger’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, so that they could be dealt with more speedily.

Finally, in July 2010, under Benedict XVI, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith presented modifications to canon law that detailed how the dicastery would examine and punish instances of clerical abuse.

The appointment of Archbishop Mollaghan to the congregation will strengthen its effectiveness in combating delicta graviora.

Aside from sexual abuse of minors, the "more grave crimes" which his office will examine include those against the sacraments — including those against the Eucharist, such as profaning a consecrated Host; against confession, such as violating the seal; and against holy orders, such as the attempted ordination of a woman.

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