Abuse victims to meet with Vatican bigs
The organizers of Pope Francis’ summit on preventing clergy sex abuse will meet this week with a dozen abuse victims who have descended on Rome to protest the Catholic Church’s response to the crisis and demand an end to decades of coverup by church leaders, officials said Monday.
These abuse survivors will not be addressing the summit of church leaders itself. Rather, they will meet Wednesday with the four-member organizing committee to convey their complaints.
The larger summit of some 190 presidents of bishops’ conferences from around the world, plus key Vatican officials, begins Thursday.
At a news conference Monday, organizers called the summit a “turning point” in the church’s approach to clergy sex abuse. The Catholic Church has long been criticized for its failure to hold bishops accountable when they covered up for priests who raped and molested children. They said the summit would focus on three key aspects of dealing with the crisis: making bishops aware of their own responsibilities to protect their flocks, the consequences of shirking those responsibilities, and the need for transparency.
Archbishop Charles Scicluna, the Vatican’s leading sex crimes investigator and an organizer of the meeting, said transparency was key, since the church’s knee-jerk response of denial and silence in the past had only exacerbated the problem. “Whether it’s criminal or malicious complicity and a code of silence, or whether it’s denial or trauma in its very primitive state, we need to get away from that,” he told reporters. “We have to face the facts.”
Chilean abuse victim Juan Carlos Cruz, who is coordinating the survivor meeting, told The Associated Press he hopes for a “constructive and open dialogue” and for summit members to convey survivors’ demand that bishops stop pleading ignorance about abuse. “Raping a child or a vulnerable person and abusing them has been wrong since the first century, the Middle Ages, and now,” he said.
Francis called the summit in September after he himself discredited Cruz and other Chilean victims of a predator priest. Francis was subsequently implicated in the coverup for Theodore McCarrick, the former powerful U.S. cardinal who last week was defrocked for sexually abusing minors as well as adults.
Francis has urged participants to meet with abuse victims before they came to Rome, to familiarize themselves with victims’ pain and trauma and debunk the widely held idea clergy sex abuse only happens in some parts of the world.
Survivors will be represented at the summit itself, but only in a few key moments of prayer.
Summit moderator the Rev. Federico Lombardi said he would gladly receive any written messages from other survivors.
Clergy at Monday Vatican news conference on this week’s summit called by Pope Francis (inset top) on preventing church sex abuse. Top, members of group Ending Clerical Abuse in St. Peter’s Square. GREGORIO BORGIA/AP