The CDF has been marginalised. Will Archbishop Scicluna’s appointment reverse that?


Catholic Herald, 20 December 2018

The CDF is an essential organisation in the fight against sexual abuse, but it has had its wings clipped in recent years

If there was a Catholic “man of the year” for 2018, many people’s candidate would be Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta. Or perhaps “fireman of the year”, as he was deployed to extinguish the conflagration ignited by the Holy Father’s incendiary trip to Chile in January. He put out the fire threatening Francis, but saving the Pope left the Chilean Church in smouldering ruins.

It is an indication of how all-consuming the sexual abuse crisis is now in Rome that when Scicluna – while keeping his day job as Archbishop of Malta – was appointed in November the adjunct secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), it was widely hailed as a positive sign.

There was nary a raised eyebrow that the third most senior official at the CDF holds a view of conscience incompatible with the previous prefect (and likely the current prefect too) of the same congregation. In relation to Amoris Laetitia, Scicluna went far beyond the ambiguities of the original text. He issued guidelines for Malta – the most radical in the world – in which he presented an understanding of conscience which directly contradicts Veritatis Splendor. But now that it’s “all sex abuse all the time”, a bit of dubious doctrine at the CDF is – for some – a small price to pay when desirous of employing Scicluna’s credibility in the disciplinary section.

And that is what the November appointment of Scicluna to the CDF was meant to do: to lend his credibility to Pope Francis on the abuse file. If the CDF actually needed Scicluna, because there is no one else in the Church who could get the job done, then he would be appointed full time, not flying in from Malta on a part-time basis. Sex abuse is not a part-time crisis.

Scicluna’s credibility is considerable. He was brought to the CDF in 2002 by Joseph Ratzinger as the congregation took on its new role of supervising all cases involving minors. As Promoter of Justice – the CDF’s chief prosecutor – from 2002 until 2012, when he returned to Malta, Scicluna led the team that handled thousands of cases. He led the practical implementation of Sacramentorum sanctitatis tutela (SST), the 2001 reforms of St John Paul II that centralised canonical prosecutions of sexual abuse at the CDF. Moreover, in 2010 he helped to strengthen the provisions of SST, and was instrumental in the CDF instructing all bishops to report allegations to civil authorities. Finally, in 2011 the CDF gave all the episcopal conferences in the world a year to establish protocols like the Americans did after the Boston scandals of 2002.

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