Vatican Steps Into US Bankruptcies, SNAP Calls for More Transparency
Church officials in the Vatican have written to the leader of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, telling him to remind bishops in the U.S. who are entering into bankruptcy proceedings that some cases require prior approval from Rome.
Canon law is on the side of the Vatican in this case and we hope that as church officials in Rome exercise their power to oversee and approve bankruptcy decisions, that they will include additional requirements that would increase transparency, safety, and efforts to prevent future cases of sexual abuse.
For example, the USSCB and the Congregation of Clergy in the Vatican could require that each diocese seeking bankruptcy approval must agree to release their files related to clergy abuse to police, parishioners, and the public. This requirement would fall in line with the Pope’s decision to abolish the pontifical secret in cases of clergy sexual abuse and would demonstrate to those in the pews that church leadership at the highest level is backing up their words with action, forcing change that will create safer, more informed communities.
However, the opposite message would be sent if the Vatican decides to exercise this power without any additional requirements that would prevent church officials from hiding documents related to clergy abuse under the seal of bankruptcy. For far too long, bankruptcy court has provided a convenient shield to dioceses that are facing abuse lawsuits. By requiring that these documents be made public, the Vatican can help reverse this trend and promote transparency over secrecy. We hope that this requirement will be demanded by the Congregation of Clergy immediately.
(SNAP, the Survivors Network, has been providing support for victims of sexual abuse in institutional settings for 30 years. We have more than 25,000 survivors and supporters in our network. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)