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Increased role for archbishops

VATICAN CITY (CNS): In the wake of the clergy sex abuse crisis, the Vatican is enhancing and emphasising the role of the metropolitan archbishop as a vigilant monitor of “suffragan” – or dependent – dioceses.

Under the policy, each archbishop is being asked to watch carefully for “abuses and errors” in episcopal ministry in the dioceses of his province, to confront the bishop as an “elder brother” when necessary, and to inform the Vatican in serious cases.

The move is significant for several reasons, Vatican sources said in mid-March.

It promotes “fraternal correction” when a local bishop mismanages an area of pastoral administration. It relies on a fellow bishop instead of a lay board for episcopal oversight. It establishes the archbishop as a link between smaller dioceses and the Vatican in some situations of controversy.

The policy was detailed in the Vatican’s 301-page “Directory for the Pastoral Ministry of Bishops” in early March, under a new section titled “Tasks of the Metropolitan Archbishop”.

The clerical sex abuse crisis was not the only reason for bolstering the responsibilities of archbishops, but it was a major factor, several Vatican sources said.

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