It is possible that bishops might soon request guidance from the Congregation for Clergy, the curial department which receives the vast majority of cases involving priestly misconduct and requests for laicization. Given that the Congregation for Clergy has long handled clerical sexual issues not defined as sufficiently grave to be sent to the CDF, its experience could prove valuable to bishops trying to understand new canonical definitions and their implications.
At the same time, bishops themselves might begin to act to bring the provisions of Vos estis into force in their own dioceses.
Bishops like Baltimore's Archbishop William Lori have already begun taking independent initiatives, like setting up third party reporting mechanisms, to address the current crisis. Bishops might soon decide to also establish localized policies reflecting the norms of Vos estis.
Bishops are canonically free to establish their own guidelines on how they will be applying the new norms of Vos estis, offering what many of the faithful say they want most to see: clear, concrete, steps towards reform in their own home dioceses.
Diocesan norms could also provide the reassurances that many priests are hoping for regarding their rights in the face of accusations, credible or otherwise, and the assurance that "zero-tolerance" will not be a byword for summary justice.
Before the February summit, Pope Francis repeatedly stated his intention not to provide a universal and comprehensive canonical solution to the sexual abuse crisis. Rather, the pope's stated aim was to provide a global framework which supported bishops in their own responsibilities.
Despite Francis's insistence that he is providing a foundation for local dioceses to build upon, many bishops are still tempted to look to Rome or the national bishops' conference to tell them what to do next.
In the same way that no investigative model or review board can insulate the Church from individual episcopal negligence, no papal decree of conference policy can substitute for conversion and leadership by individual bishops. Rome has spoken, and bishops will now face the challenge of carrying out the pope's direction.
Ed Condon is a canon lawyer and worked as Catholic News Agency's Washington DC editor until December 2020.