Credibility Requires Accountability: Monitoring Priests’ Cellphones

In light of the vocations issue and concerns about privacy, a policy that significantly intrudes on priests’ privacy should be a last resort. However, given the tremendous damage the earlier sex scandals did to the Church’s credibility, as evidenced by declining attendance and financial support, renewed concerns about priestly celibacy may justify such a resort.
There are a number of praiseworthy provisions in the Vatican’s new rules, which are meant to root out abuse by bishops and prevent further cover-ups, but there are glaring problems and omissions as well. Troublingly, the new rules apply only to coerced sexual acts, not consensual ones. In addition, while reporting abuse is now mandatory, investigations will still be conducted by the Church hierarchy, not lay people or civil authorities.
The Vatican’s recent Meeting on the Protection of Minors in the Church failed to produce any new reforms. Cardinal Cupich’s proposal would leave decision-making power in the hands of those authorities that Church members trust least: the bishops and the Vatican hierarchy. Instead, the Church needs to take investigatory and disciplinary processes out of the hands of local bishops and assign them to a national panel with lay members.
The Catholic Church in the United States has been rocked by revelations that multiple bishops actively covered up sexual abuse cases. The time has come to take responsibility away from Church tribunals and diocesan bishops, even if that means changing canon law to create mandatory compliance mechanisms like those developed and enforced by for-profit corporations.