WORLD’S CARDINALS GATHER TO DISCUSS SEX ABUSE.
Vatican hosts global meeting
VATICAN CITY Cardinals from around the world will hold an unprecedented meeting in the Vatican today to discuss sex abuse by priests, as activists call for tougher action against offenders.
“The church’s response to sexual abuse cases” will be one of the themes at the meeting to be led by a U.S. cardinal, following an invitation from Pope Benedict XVI, the Vatican said in a statement ahead of the closed-door talks.
It will be the first time the cardinals meet to discuss the issue. About 105 of the world’s 203 cardinals are expected to take part.
The publication in Ireland last year of a shocking report that documented hundreds of cases of child abuse by priests and systematic coverup efforts by senior clergy has plunged the church into its worst crisis in many years.
The revelations have been succeeded by a number of scandals across Canada, the United States and Europe, including in Germany — the Pope’s homeland.
Benedict has condemned the crimes with growing intensity, has met with victims and has tightened church rules for dealing with abusers.
But campaigners say the church has not done enough to punish those who covered up for abusers.
Today’s discussions will be led by U.S. Cardinal William Joseph Levada, head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the body in charge of church dogma that was led for more than 20 years by the current Pope.
Levada was previously the archbishop of San Francisco.
Barbara Blaine, head of the U.S.-based Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, has expressed skepticism about the Vatican meeting.
“We’ll only know if this is a good development when we see action resulting from this meeting. To be swayed by mere talk is to betray vulnerable children and wounded adults,” Blaine said in a statement. “It takes decisive action to oust predator priests and complicit bishops. And when it comes to abuse, this Pope, like his predecessors, has shown little commitment to real action.”
Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi has played down expectations of any major outcome from today’s meeting.
“It’s a communication, information, clarification, reflection on some questions, but not a very thorough examination,” he said, adding that there would be little official communication from the Vatican after the talks.