‘Turn­ing point’

Abuse vic­tims to meet with Vat­i­can bigs

New York Daily News - - NEWS - BY NI­COLE WIN­FIELD

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

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