So what’s up with the Associated Press, all of a sudden? It used to be rare to read an AP report that totally needed an “analysis” label, but now it seems that these stories pop up all of the time.
This time around, we’re talking about a report on Pope Benedict XVI’s unusual decision to dismiss one of his European bishops outright — just like that. No ifs, ands or buts. The bishop was simply shown the door.
Now, this is the kind of inside-baseball stuff that canon lawyers and church activists simply live to talk about. So what’s up with the top of this AP opinion essay? Note how quickly the piece moves from facts into straight out, connect-the-dots speculation — with no attribution clauses whatsoever.
Terry has more to say, which is worth reading, but I'm going off on my own tangent now.
What alarmed me personally was the shift into speculating that the dismissal of this particular bishop might mean that a legal line of attack might be open to those wishing to get the Vatican on child abuse cases. Here's a quote from the AP article:
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.
The Pope can fire bishops, but he needs a very good reason to do so. He needs evidence of wrong doing, for starters, not just accusations. If a bishop has been found guilty of a crime, then that makes his job easier. But this sort of fishing is somewhat equivalent of trying to hold the leader of a country responsible for inept handling of criminal cases by the justice system. You have to find the person who did wrong responsible, not just keep going up and up the chain seeking to find some one bigger to get who should have done something, otherwise what leader, anywhere is going to be exempt?
This isn't just about any leader, however. This is about getting the Pope and shutting down the Church. Ultimately, I think what is going on is a modern day attempt at a dissolution of the monasteries worldwide. Nothing less will satisfy. Child abuses cases are just the excuse.
Related links: That strange AP story about a fired Slovak bishop ~ GetReligion
Pope fires Slovak bishop in rare show of papal power; usually bishops are asked to resign