Obedience To Bishop?

If this Penn State disaster has taught us anything, it’s that the cover up is as bad if not worse than the actual crime itself.

My question is really pretty simple in terms of preventing and reporting any future child abuse crimes in the Church.

If a Catholic priest suspects a fellow priest of abusing children he would probably first go to the pastor to report it. If the pastor does nothing, then he would go to the bishop.

But what if the bishop does nothing as well? Should the priest then go directly to the police? Wouldn’t that be breaking the vow obedience to the bishop? Or should the police be the first ones contacted?

Well, he could contact… I don’t know, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which I believe is the office that handles clerical abuse, in the Holy See.

The priest should first contact the police and then inform the bishop. As a person of authority, if he becomes aware (outside of the confessional) isn’t he mandated by law to report to the police?

There are some very well defined procedures in place at present to prevent abuse from going unreported, and to create transparency (public awareness) of cases of suspected and proven abuse. While possible, it is unlikely in the current environment that a priest would have to go very far if he truly suspected another priest of wrongdoing of this type.

You may be interested in reading some of the related material on the USCCB website: Child and Youth Protection

I’d be very surprised if any current Bishop did not handle the situation immediately.

Sexual abuse is far higher in co-habitating homes and re-married couples than by a Catholic clergy. Yet all the media covers is the CC.

When will the media say we need an overhaul of cohabitation and divorce to reestablish protection for the children?

Thank you,


Don’t all Bishops’ Conferences now have policies and procedures to follow? I’m sure they do.

Here’s the USCCB’s

Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People; Essential Norms; Statement of Episcopal Commitment; Revised June 2011


ARTICLE 4. Dioceses/eparchies are to report an allegation of sexual abuse of a person who is a minor to the public authorities. Dioceses/ eparchies are to comply with all applicable civil laws with respect to the reporting of allegations of sexual abuse of minors to civil authorities and cooperate in their investigation in accord with the law of the jurisdiction in question.

Dioceses/eparchies are to cooperate with public authorities about reporting cases even when the person is no longer a minor. In every instance, dioceses/eparchies are to advise victims of their right to make a report to public authorities and support this right.

ARTICLE 5. We affirm the words of His Holiness, Pope John Paul II, in his Address to the Cardinals of the United States and Conference Officers: “There is no place in the priesthood or religious life for those who would harm the young.”

Sexual abuse of a minor by a cleric is a crime in the universal law of the Church (CIC, c. 1395 §2; CCEO, c. 1453 §1). Because of the seriousness of this matter, jurisdiction has been reserved to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (Motu proprio Sacramentorum sanctitatis tutela, AAS 93, 2001). Sexual abuse of a minor is also a crime in all civil jurisdictions in the United States.

Diocesan/eparchial policy is to provide that for even a single act of sexual abuse of a minor*—whenever it occurred—which is admitted or established after an appropriate process in accord with canon law, the offending priest or deacon is to be permanently removed from ministry and, if warranted, dismissed from the clerical state. In keeping with the stated purpose of this Charter, an offending priest or deacon is to be offered therapeutic professional assistance both for the purpose of prevention and also for his own healing and well-being.

The diocesan/eparchial bishop is to exercise his power of governance, within the parameters of the universal law of the Church, to ensure that any priest or deacon subject to his governance who has committed even one act of sexual abuse of a minor as described below (see note) shall not continue in ministry.


First, diocesan priests and deacons do not vow obedience to their bishop, they promise obedience to their bishop. Consecrated religious brothers who are also priests or deacons have vows to their superior.

If the priest is regular, that is, not a diocesan priest, then the bishop can do nothing, as the priest is not under his jurisdiction. The incident(s) would need to be reported to the priest’s superior.

The next person up after the diocesan bishop or religious superior is the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Indeed, and if the forum name of the OP is indicative of location, it is reasonably certain that there is extra diligence these days in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, under new leadership.

And yes, the media attention is seemingly singularly directed at the CC, but it is the cross we bear as the Church in being a beacon of Truth.

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