Pope Francis speaks during an exclusive interview with Reuters at the Vatican July 2, 2022. (CNS photo/Remo Casilli, Reuters)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Pope Francis said he plans to name two women to the committee that helps him choose bishops for the world’s Latin-rite dioceses.

In an interview July 2 with the Reuters news agency, the pope seemed to indicate the women would be members, not consultants or staff members, of the Dicastery for Bishops, which currently has only cardinals and bishops as members and five bishops and two priests as consultants.

“Two women will be appointed for the first time in the committee to elect bishops in the Congregation for Bishops,” Pope Francis told Philip Pullella, the Reuters’ Vatican correspondent.

“This way, things are opening up a bit,” the pope said when asked about expanding the role of women in church decision making.

Reuters published the pope’s remarks about women’s positions July 6.

Preparing nominations for the office of bishops is a long, multistep process. For most Latin-rite dioceses that are not in mission territories, the process begins with bishops submitting to their local archbishop the names of priests they think would be good bishops; once a year the bishops of the province discuss the names submitted and forward recommendations to the nuncio.

The nuncio studies the lists, investigates further, solicits feedback from people who know the candidate and forwards his recommendations to the Dicastery for Bishops.

The prefect of the dicastery, currently Canadian Cardinal Marc Ouellet, can make recommendations directly to the pope about transferring a bishop from one diocese to another or to an archdiocese. But if the candidate is still a priest, the members of the dicastery — currently 17 cardinals and six bishops — must review the dossiers and vote on the names to recommend to the pope. Although many of the members do not live in Rome, they usually meet twice a month on Thursdays to deliberate.

The prefect presents the nominations to the pope, who makes the final decision.

Pope Francis did not give Reuters the names of the women he intends to name to the dicastery, nor did he say when they would be announced.

The pope’s new apostolic constitution on the Roman Curia said, “The dicastery deals with all matters concerning the appointment of diocesan and titular bishops, apostolic administrators and, in general, the provision of the particular churches. It does so by considering the proposals presented by the particular churches, the episcopal conferences and the papal representations, and after having consulted the executive officers of the respective episcopal conference and the metropolitan (archbishop).”

“In appropriate ways, it also engages in this process the members of the people of God of the dioceses in question,” the document added.

While the constitution opened almost all roles in the Roman Curia to lay men and women, it also reserved a special place for cardinals as the members of dicasteries.

“The members of curial institutions are appointed from among the cardinals living in Rome or outside the city, to whom are added some bishops, especially diocesan or eparchial ones, insofar as they have expertise in the particular matters involved,” it said. “Depending on the nature of the dicastery, priests, deacons, those in institutes of consecrated life and societies of apostolic life and lay faithful may also be appointed members.”

“I am open to giving (women) an opportunity” to lead Vatican offices, the pope told Reuters. “There is now a woman deputy governor” of Vatican City State, Sister Raffaella Petrini, a member of the Franciscan Sisters of the Eucharist, whom he appointed in November.

“As heads of dicasteries,” the pope continued, it is possible that women could lead the Dicastery for Laity, the Family and Life, the Dicastery for Culture and Education or the Vatican Library, “which is almost a dicastery.”

Coincidently, Cardinal Kevin J. Farrell, prefect of the Dicastery for Laity, the Family and Life, told the Jesuit-run America Magazine in late June, “I believe I could be the last cleric in charge of this dicastery.”

While the current secretary of the dicastery is a priest, the two undersecretaries are women: Linda Ghisoni, who heads the section for laity; and Gabriella Gambino, who heads the section for family and life.

Other female leaders at the Vatican include: Salesian Sister Alessandra Smerilli, secretary of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development; Barbara Jatta, director of the Vatican Museums; Xavière Missionary Sister Nathalie Becquart, undersecretary of the Synod of Bishops; Sister Carmen Ros Nortes, a member of the Sisters of Our Lady of Consolation, who serves as an undersecretary at the Dicastery for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life; Natasa Govekar, director of the theological-pastoral department of the Dicastery for Communication; and Cristiane Murray, vice director of the Vatican press office.


On Friday, March 26, 2022, the Diocese of Scranton received an allegation of sexual assault of an adult involving Monsignor Michael J. Delaney, Pastor, Our Lady of the Snows Parish, Clarks Summit. The reporting individual alleged Monsignor Delaney assaulted him in 2002, at which time Monsignor Delaney was Pastor of Saint Gabriel Church in Hazleton. The individual was 31 years old at the time of the alleged incident.

Upon receipt of this allegation, the Diocese of Scranton followed its established procedure relative to allegations of sexual assault not involving minors. In addition to notifying the Luzerne County District Attorney’s Office, Diocesan outside counsel retained a professional investigator to conduct an assessment of the credibility of the allegation. The investigator spoke with the individual making the complaint and examined all relevant records. The individual making this allegation accepted an opportunity to meet with Bishop Joseph C. Bambera on June 6, 2022.

Based upon its initial assessment, the Diocese determined the allegation appears credible. The Diocese’s initial assessment shows an imbalance of power and vulnerability that existed between Monsignor Delaney and the reporting individual, given cognitive impairment that the individual acknowledges, displays and has been documented and shared with the Diocese of Scranton.

Information regarding the allegation was presented to the Bishop’s Advisory Board for Clergy for review and recommendation. The Bishop’s Advisory Board for Clergy consists of lay, clergy and religious professionals and advises the bishop in his assessment of allegations of sexual misconduct not involving minors and in the determination of suitability for ministry of the accused.

The Diocese also informed Monsignor Delaney of the allegation.

Under both civil and canon law, a person is presumed innocent until proven guilty. However, the presumption of innocence does not preclude the Diocese from taking immediate, prudent action to protect the Church community in response to complaints and before the outcome of an internal canonical investigation and/or any external law enforcement investigation.

Bishop Bambera subsequently placed Monsignor Delaney on administrative leave and revoked his faculties to perform public priestly ministry (including celebrating Mass and hearing confessions). The Diocese also opened an internal (canonical) investigation according to the procedures established by canon law.

Monsignor Delaney was ordained to serve as a priest of the Diocese of Scranton on August 31, 1985. Upon ordination, his first assignment was assistant pastor of Immaculate Conception Church in Scranton. Between 1985-1986, Monsignor also served as catechist for Bishop Hannan High School. During the same time period, he served as chaplain to the deaf community and Moses Taylor Community Medical Center. In 1992, Monsignor Delaney became assistant pastor of Saint Gregory Church, Clarks Green. In July 1994, he took on his first role as pastor at Saint Gabriel Church, Hazleton. From 2004-2005, he also served as administrator of Sacred Heart Church and the National Shrine of the Sacred Heart, Harleigh. In June 2005, Monsignor Delaney became pastor of Nativity of Our Lord Church, Scranton. In 2008 and early 2009, Monsignor was placed on leaves of absence. In July 2008, he had residence at Saint John the Evangelist in Pittston. In May 2009, he was appointed assistant pastor at St. Paul and St. Clare, Scranton. In July 2012, he became administrator of Holy Cross Parish, Olyphant, and Blessed Sacrament Parish, Throop. Exactly one year later, he became the pastor of the linked parishes. In August 2021, Monsignor was appointed pastor at Our Lady of the Snows Parish, Clarks Summit.

Between 2007 and 2009, the Diocese previously received reports that Monsignor Delaney had possibly engaged in inappropriate conduct with four other adults. Law enforcement was engaged but no criminal charges were filed in relation to these incidents. In 2009, following a period of rehabilitation, Monsignor Delaney was allowed to return to ministry by the prior Diocesan administration. There have been no subsequent allegations of inappropriate conduct involving Monsignor Delaney until the current report.

Anyone who might have relevant information regarding this allegation – or any allegation of sexual abuse committed by a priest, deacon, religious, lay employee or volunteer of the Diocese of Scranton – is encouraged to immediately report the matter to law enforcement.