His Holiness Pope Francis appointed Maltese Archbishop Charles J. Scicluna as Adjunct Secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith of the Holy See. Whilst remaining the Archbishop of Malta, Mgr Scicluna will have a greater role in the Congregation which is responsible to promote and safeguard the doctrine on faith and morals in the Church.
The pope’s decision gives the Maltese archbishop the lead role in the fight against abuse in the church and in the protection of minors.
America reports that the surprise announcement came as the Vatican prepares for an unprecedented summit meeting of the presidents of some 130 bishops conferences from all continents in February called by Pope Francis to address the question of the protection of minors in the church and the crucial issue of accountability.
Archbishop Scicluna has long been the face of the Catholic Church in the fight to eliminate the sexual abuse of minors and vulnerable adults by clergy and its cover-up by bishops and heads of religious orders. He enjoys enormous credibility among both survivors and bishops worldwide for his work in this field.
The Catholic News Service refers to Archbishop Scicluna as the Catholic Church’s most respected abuse investigator.
At present, Archbishop Scicluna is a member of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and President of the Special College within the same Congregation, to hear recourses in certain canonical processes.
To fulfil the duties entrusted to him by Pope Francis, Archbishop Scicluna will travel to Rome on a regular basis. In the absence of the Archbishop, the Auxiliary Bishop, Mgr Joseph Galea-Curmi, will assume the ordinary leadership of the Archdiocese of Malta.
America reports that the Vatican broke the news at midday on Nov. 13 in a statement adding that Archbishop Scicluna “will retain his role as archbishop of Malta.” Adjunct secretary is the joint number two position in the C.D.F., a senior role which he shares with the Italian archbishop Giacomo Morandi under the prefect of that congregation, the Spanish born Jesuit, Cardinal Luis Ladaria Ferrer. By appointing Scicluna to this important position, Pope Francis is assigning him the lead role in the Vatican in dealing with all matters relating to the abuse crisis, suggesting his determination to deal decisively with the scandal.
The 59-year-old archbishop, who holds a doctorate in canon law, worked at the doctrinal congregation for 10 years as the “promoter of justice” — a position similar to prosecuting attorney — dealing with cases of alleged clerical sexual abuse.
But even after being named auxiliary bishop of Malta in 2012, he continued to be the person the pope would call on to investigate high-profile cases of abuse, consolidating a reputation for treating victims with compassion and respect, and for insisting church officials respond to allegations clearly.
Catholic News reports that he generally is credited with consolidating the cases against Legionaries of Christ founder Father Marcial Maciel Degollado and Scottish Cardinal Keith O’Brien and, most recently, for convincing Pope Francis to take measures against several bishops in Chile.
Archbishop Scicluna also serves as president of the doctrinal congregation board that reviews appeals filed by priests laicized or otherwise disciplined in sexual abuse or other serious cases.
During the Synod of Bishops in October, reporters asked Archbishop Scicluna about the state of discussions regarding the need for greater accountability of bishops in handling abuse cases. He said accountability would be a topic at the world meeting on abuse prevention the pope called for Feb. 21-24.
“We know there is a great expectation for more accountability,” he said. “Now how is that going to develop? I think we need to trust Pope Francis to develop a system whereby there is more accountability.”
“We bishops realize that we are accountable not only to God but also to our people,” and accountable not only for what they do, but what they fail to do when it comes to “stewardship” and protection, he said.
The crisis caused by ongoing revelations and allegations “is a very important moment” for everyone in the church because “it is going to make us really, really humble,” the archbishop told reporters. “There is no other way to humility except through humiliation, and it is a big humiliation, and it is going to make us humble, I hope.”