Had they passed, the proposed measures would have created a code of conduct for bishops and a special commission, including six lay members, tasked with working with the apostolic nuncio, the pope’s diplomatic representative to the United States Church, to investigate allegations of bishop misconduct. These would have been small but significant moves toward making bishops more accountable when they fail to report abusive priests, or when they are accused of abuse themselves. But even these limited actions were delayed.
On Monday morning, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, the conference’s president, announced that the Vatican’s Congregation for Bishops had asked the bishops to delay a vote on the reforms. They would wait until a February meeting between Pope Francis and the heads of bishops’ conferences around the world. The Holy See’s request came as an unwelcome shock to many of the bishops, and may further strain the already tense relationship between American bishops and the papacy.