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 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.
WHAT’S ON THE AGENDA?
The meeting is divided into three thematic days, with the final day — Sunday — devoted to Mass and a concluding address from the pope.
Day 1 explores bishops’ responsibilities to their flocks, including their legal responsibility to investigate and prevent abuse.
Day 2 is dedicated to accountability and is focused on church leaders working together, along with rank-and-file Catholics, to protect children.
Day 3 focuses on transparency, and features remarks from a Nigerian religious sister, a German cardinal and a Mexican journalist.
Testimony from survivors is interspersed throughout during moments of prayer, but there are no sessions dedicated to hearing their stories. Participants were told to meet with victims before coming to Rome to learn first-hand of their pain — and to drive home the idea that clergy sex abuse isn’t confined to certain parts of the world. Read more via Washington Post
What to Watch for During the Catholic Church’s Sex-Abuse Meeting
This week, 190 bishops and other prelates from around the world are gathering for a meeting on the protection of minors in the Catholic Church. Called by Pope Francis, the meeting is the first of its kind at the Vatican, and a sign that the pope and the Church hierarchy are finally acknowledging that the sexual-abuse crisis has become a global issue—in recent years, scandals have erupted in Australia, Chile, France, Germany, Ireland, and the United States, and they show no signs of abating.
Vatican officials say the meeting’s themes will be responsibility, accountability, and transparency, and they hope that it will be a turning point. But they’ve also tried to manage expectations, saying that while the gathering is an opportunity for discussion and reflection, it might not yet yield concrete measures.
What’s Gone Wrong in Clerical Culture?
Francis has blamed the sexual-abuse crisis on what he calls “clericalism,” or an abuse of power by priests.
Structurally, the distribution of responsibility between local dioceses and the Vatican has meant that blame and accountability for abusive clerics have been constantly deferred, creating a system for plausible deniability and fertile ground for cover-ups.
Culturally, an all-male celibate culture is an unusual world—and sometimes it’s not so celibate. (This week, the Vatican acknowledged that it has guidelines for priests who’ve fathered children.) Read more via the Atlantic
A meeting in solidarity, humility, and penitence
“If one member suffers, all the members suffer together” (1 Cor 12:26)
"Faced with widespread and growing discomfort following new reports and revelations of very serious cases of sexual abuse involving members of the clergy, on September 12, 2018, at the end of one of the meetings of the Council of Cardinals it was announced that the Holy Father had decided to call a meeting in the Vatican for February 21-24, 2019. The meeting would be a broad approach to the theme 'The Protection of Minors in the Church.'
This is certainly a first meeting of its kind, yet it is also clearly part of the process of synodality that Pope Francis is keen to have at the heart of his plan to reform the Church. Faced with a problem that shows itself more and more present and serious in different geographical areas of the world and of the Catholic Church, the pope has ordered the highest representatives of the different ecclesial communities to give a united response at the universal level. The entire Church must choose to live in solidarity, above all with the victims, with their families and with the ecclesial communities wounded by the scandals. As the pope has written, 'If one member suffers, all the members suffer together' (1 Cor 12:26), and the commitment to protect minors has to be taken on clearly and effectively by the entire community, starting with those in the highest positions of responsibility.
Speaking of sexual abuse by members of the clergy is painful and unpleasant. Sometimes, even in Church circles, one hears that it is time to change the subject, that it is not right to give too much weight to this theme, for it is becoming oppressive and overblown. But that would be the wrong road to take. If the problem is not fully confronted in all its aspects, the Church will continue to find itself facing one crisis after another, her credibility and that of all priests will remain seriously wounded, but above all, what will suffer will be the substance of her mission to proclaim the gospel and her educational work for children and young people, which for centuries has been one of the most beautiful and precious aspects of her service for humanity.”
In consciousness of the facts, the meeting sees itself as a step on a long path of reappraisal, healing and transformation of the Church, which must always be a transformation towards a deeper, more wholehearted following of Jesus Christ.
This homepage was established to be able to transparently and authentically follow the process of change and development, both during the meeting and thereafter. Thus, beyond February 2019, it should be traceable what stimulus has come from within and outside of the meeting for the protection of minors, and how this has been implemented and/or developed further. All participants are aware of the fact that it must not remain mere words and announcements. Specific action must follow. Everyone can use this homepage to form their own opinion on whether and how this will succeed in future. Read more via PBC