Posts Tagged Vatican bishops’ summit

Vatican bishops’ summit on clergy abuse has ended. Now we wait.

Bishop sash and crossBOSTON, Mass., Feb. 27, 2019 – Ever since Catholic clergy crimes of sex abuse became widely known, the Catholic faithful have waited for accountability and healing. Voice of the Faithful is among them; this time waiting for concrete action on clergy sex abuse after bishops from around the world recently concluded a four-day summit at the Vatican to address this festering issue.

A general conclusion is that the summit at least made Church hierarchy in the rest of the world as aware of the seriousness of clergy abuse as the hierarchy in the United States – and in other countries that have long been aware of the abuse and its cover-up. Based on the Pope’s concluding speech, however, the hierarchy has yet to shift its thinking about clergy abuse from sin and forgiveness to crime and punishment. The message from the hierarchy continues to be, “this is intolerable, but …”

Summit participants talked about transparency, responsibility, and accountability. We would like to have seen at least one concrete move to attack the clerical culture at the core of the scandal that was equal to the summit’s rhetoric—one concrete move that would have overcome what summit presenter Sister Veronica Openibo, S.H.C.J., called the hierarchy’s “mediocrity, hypocrisy, complacency.” Of Sister Openibo’s presentation, VOTF trustee Margaret Roylance said, “The bishops had to sit there silent and listen to her—no denials, explanations or blaming others.”

Prior to the summit, there were expectations that the Church might at last achieve true transparency, responsibility and accountability. Then the backpedaling began: maybe expectations were too high; perhaps the summit was just the first step in a global response; its aim was to educate those who still believed this was an American problem, or a gay priest problem, or all in the past, rather than produce immediate corrections.

In one respect, new transparency did take a bow. The Vatican live-streamed all the main presentations; they invited survivors to speak first; and they listened to frank, unadorned descriptions of abuse and misuse of power. In another instance, German Cardinal Reinhardt Marx admitted that the Church had destroyed documents about abuse cases. In yet another, a Vatican spokesperson told the media that the Church does have secret protocols for priests who father children. Perhaps most astonishing for the bishops was hearing in a worldwide forum testimony from survivors of abuse that priests had ordered survivors to have abortions—a claim long whispered within the Church but never openly acknowledged.

Despite these efforts, by the conclusion of the summit, we heard little about steps that would address the crimes of abuse and cover-up. Primary results thus far seem to be a promise that the Vatican will distribute a rulebook to bishops worldwide explaining their juridical and pastoral duties and responsibilities with regard to protecting children. Also promised was a meeting among Vatican summit organizers and Vatican curia to discuss, “What next.” We suggest starting instead with removing from their positions all bishops who participated in cover-ups or molested others.

The Pope in his concluding remarks hit on two issues he cited as being at the root of the problem. One was evil at work and the other the “plague of clericalism, fertile ground for all of these disgraces.” “However, the issue seems still to be recognizing that evil and doing something about clericalism,” said Mary Pat Fox, Voice of the Faithful president. “We all want to believe people we know and trust are good, but in reality that is not always the case, and the Church and the Pope need to get better at recognizing and battling the evil in front of them – the bishops who have moved and protected abusive priests. Yes, the priests who perpetrated these crimes are sick and need to face justice, but the criminals who made this crisis bigger are the bishops who exposed children to already credibly accused priests.”

Eventually, to rebuild trust, the Church must take these steps if it hopes to regain credibility and begin healing the wounds it has inflicted on victims and all members of our global faith community. Much more will be required as well, but that’s the obvious and immediate need.


Anyone who would like to read in detail about the Vatican bishops’ summit on clergy abuse, “The Protection of Minors in the Church,” and listen to presentations and news conferences can visit the Vatican’s website on the meeting, http://www.pbc2019.org.


Voice of the Faithful Statement, Feb. 27, 2019
Contact: Nick Ingala, nickingala@votf.org, 781-559-3360
Voice of the Faithful®: Voice of the Faithful® is a worldwide movement of faithful Roman Catholics working to support survivors of clergy sexual abuse, support priests of integrity and increase the laity’s role in the governance and guidance of the Church. More information is at www.votf.org.

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Cardinal admits to Vatican summit that Catholic Church destroyed abuse files / National Catholic Reporter

Marx’s admission to the church’s destruction of files may have special significance in his native Germany, where an exhaustive September 2018 report on abuse in the country detailed cases involving 3,677 children but said files in at least two dioceses had been changed or destroyed. (National Catholic Reporter)

A top cardinal has admitted that the global Catholic Church destroyed files to prevent documentation of decades of sexual abuse of children, telling the prelates attending Pope Francis’ clergy abuse summit Feb. 23 that such maladministration led ‘in no small measure’ to more children being harmed.

“In a frank speech to the 190 cardinals, bishops and heads of religious orders taking part in the four-day summit, German Cardinal Reinhard Marx said the church’s administration had left victims’ rights ‘trampled underfoot’ and ‘made it impossible’ for the worldwide institution to fulfill its mission.

“‘Files that could have documented the terrible deeds and named those responsible were destroyed, or not even created,’ said Marx, beginning a list of a number of practices that survivors have documented for years but church officials have long kept under secret.

“‘Instead of the perpetrators, the victims were regulated and silence imposed on them,’ the cardinal continued. ‘The stipulated procedures and processes for the prosecution of offences were deliberately not complied with, but instead cancelled or overridden.'”

By Joshua J. McElwee, National Catholic Reporter — Read more …

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Pope vows to end cover-ups, fight sex abuse with ‘wrath of God’ / Associated Press in The Boston Globe

But he (Pope Francis) said the sexual abuse of children becomes even more scandalous when it occurs in the Catholic Church, ‘‘for it is utterly incompatible with her moral authority and ethical credibility.’’ (Associated Press in The Boston Globe)

Pope Francis closed out his summit on preventing clergy sex abuse by vowing Sunday to confront abusers with ‘the wrath of God,’ end the cover-ups by their superiors and prioritize the victims of this ‘brazen, aggressive and destructive evil.’

“Francis delivered his remarks at the end of Mass before 190 Catholic bishops and religious superiors who were summoned to Rome after more abuse scandals sparked a credibility crisis in the Catholic hierarchy and in Francis’ own leadership.

“The Jesuit pope noted that the vast majority of sexual abuse happens in the family. And he offered a global review of the broader societal problem of sexual tourism and online pornography, in a bid to contextualize what he said was once a taboo subject.

“But he said the sexual abuse of children becomes even more scandalous when it occurs in the Catholic Church, ‘for it is utterly incompatible with her moral authority and ethical credibility.'”

By Nicole Winfield, Associated Press, in The Boston Globe — Read more …

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Message from the bishops summit: The problem is everywhere / Boston Globe

“No bishop may say to himself, ‘This problem of abuse in the church does not concern me, because things are different in my part of the world,’” (The Boston Globe)

The unprecedented summit on clerical sexual abuse in the Catholic Church has yet to produce major concrete reforms, but, over the past three days, at least one clear message has emerged: No church official, no matter where he comes from, should return thinking this isn’t a problem back home.

“From the beginning of the scandals, there has been a persistent undercurrent of resistance to a major churchwide reckoning from leaders in locations where the crisis has yet to erupt, both in traditional centers of Catholic power, such as Italy, and in newer ones, such as Africa. Those church leaders have often referred to clerical abuse as largely an ‘American,’ or an ‘Anglo-Saxon’ or ‘Western’ problem.

“But that mentality was challenged head-on during the summit.”

By John L. Allen, Jr., The Boston Globe — Read more …

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Pope’s sex abuse prevention summit explained / Associated Press

Chicago Cardinal Blase Cupich, one of the summit organizers, said the sexual abuse of adults needs to be addressed. But he said the four-day summit must remain focused on its original intent. “Young people, minors don’t have a voice. They are kept in silence,” he said. “This is about making sure their voice is heard.” (National Catholic Reporter)

Pope Francis is hosting a four-day summit on preventing clergy sexual abuse, a high-stakes meeting designed to impress on Catholic bishops around the world that the problem is global and that there are consequences if they cover it up.

“The meeting opening Thursday (Feb. 21) comes at a critical time for the church and Francis’ papacy, following the explosion of the scandal in Chile last year and renewed outrage in the United States over decades of cover-up that were exposed by the Pennsylvania grand jury report.

“Here is a look at what’s in store for the summit …”

By Nicole Winfield, Associated Press — Read more …

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