Priest criticizes Vatican over Indonesian bishop case

Light of truth

A British-born priest who has served in Indonesia for more than 40 years has called on the Vatican to end its tradition of keeping disciplinary cases involving the clergy confidential and demanded changes to the way bishops are appointed.

In an opinion piece published in Hidup, a weekly magazine published by the Jakarta Archdiocese, Divine Word Father John Mansford Prior, a missiology lecturer at the Catholic School of Philosophy in Maumere on the Catholic majority island of Flores said the handling of moral cases involving clergy must be “completely transparent, just like in the state system.”

“If the Holy See compels a bishop to withdraw, the results of the trial [of a bishop] must be officially announced,” he argued.

Father Prior, who also works at the Candraditya Centre for the Study of Religion and Culture in Maumere is a former consultor of the Pontifical Council for Culture and the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conference (FABC). His article, published in the Oct. 29 edition of Hidup, specifically addressed the resignation of Bishop Hubertus Leteng of Ruteng.

Pope Francis approved Bishop Leteng’s resignation on Oct. 11 after an investigation into allegations of misappropriating more than US$100,000 of church funds and an illicit relationship with a woman. In its official announcement, the Vatican did not give a reason for Bishop Leteng’s resignation.

Father Prior told on Nov. 1, that in addition of transparency, the church should also encourage due process.

“If there were credible accusations, the clergy, whether it’s a priest or bishop being accused, should be immediately discharged, certainly with innocent prejudice,” he said.

The church is not credible in handling such cases, he argued because “priest investigates priest, bishop investigates bishop and it is done in private.” “Who can really believe in the results of such a process?”

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