Stay in touch

Get the latest news from the Holy See Mission:

Rosica apologizes for plagiarism

Washington D.C., Feb 22, 2019 / 11:14 pm (CNA).- A long-time Vatican spokesman has admitted to passing off the writing of others as his own, and apologized for plagiarizing. “What I’ve done is wrong, and I am sorry about that. I don’t know how else to say it,” Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB, told the National Post Feb. 22. Rosica, a long-serving English language press aide at the Vatican Press Office, and the CEO of Canada’s Salt+Light Television network, was reported by Life Site News Feb. 15 to have plagiarized sections of text in several lectures and op-eds from a variety of writers, among them priests, theologians, journalists, and at least two cardinals. Subsequent reports found widespread plagiarism in essays, speeches, and op-eds by Rosica, dating back more than a decade. Plagiarized sections in some texts ran beyond even one paragraph. Rosica told the National Post that he had passed off the work of others as his his own because his notes were disorganized, and because he relied on material prepared by interns. “I realize I relied too much on compiled notes,” Rosica told the National Post, adding that his plagiarism was inadvertent and not malicious. He explained that “it could have been cut and paste,” apparently meaning that he had mistakenly included passages of text written by others in his texts without remembering to attribute them. “I realize the seriousness of this and I regret this very much … I will be very vigilant in future,” he said. Rosica is a member of the governing board at the Toronto’s University of St. Michael’s College, to whom he told the National Post he planned to apologize. I will apologize that this came to light, and it’s wrong, and it’s not going to happen again,” Rosica said. The college’s board chairman said in statement that the university takes the matter very seriously, and intends “to address the matter internally going forward.” Rosica, a member of the Congregation of St. Basil, oversaw Toronto’s 2002 World Youth Day, and is currently assisting with the Vatican’s global summit on child sexual abuse.  

Cardinal Cupich lays out framework for bishops' accountability

Vatican City, Feb 22, 2019 / 05:01 pm (CNA).- The Church needs to establish a new rules and standards for the accountability of bishops regarding sex abuse and its mishandling, the Archbishop of Chicago said Friday at the Vatican. “We must move to establish robust laws and structures regarding the accountability of bishops precisely to supply with a new soul the institutional reality of the Church’s discipline on sexual abuse,” Cardinal Blase Cupich said Feb. 22. In his speech at the Meeting of the Presidents of the Bishops’ Conferences on Safeguarding of Minors,  Cupich stated that the Church needs to assume the role of a loving mother to her children in working to end the sexual abuse crisis, and how acting in a synodal, collegiate manner will result in much good. Cupich laid out what he believes will be an effective framework for his brother bishops, with an increased number of responsibilities for metropolitan archbishops, to ensure accountability in combating the crisis of sexual abuse in the Church. “My aim is to offer a framework that is in keeping with our ecclesiological and canonical traditions in order to spark conversations among ourselves, knowing that there are differences in culture, civil and canonical laws and other factors that need to be considered,” said Cupich, who added that he felt as though “decisive action” needed to be taken “without delay.” Cupich said he believes each episcopal conference, province, or diocese should “collegially establish” a standard for the investigation of a bishop for potential misconduct or cover-up, and that the process of creating these standards should involve both lay experts and the use of a metropolitan archbishop. “All mechanisms for reporting allegations of abuse or mishandling of abuse cases against a bishop should be transparent and well-known to the faithful,” said Cupich, adding that a direct line of contact to report abuse allegations to either an apostolic nuncio or metropolitan should be established. The cardinal said he thought it would be useful for episcopal conferences to adopt a set of procedural steps that would both mesh with the traditions of the Church, and also “fulfill modern needs” for the identification and investigation of misconduct by bishops. These procedures and norms need to include compassion for those who report abuse and their families, which includes providing access to counseling and other support at the expense of the diocese, as well as all reports of offenses being made public. A person who reports abuse should not fear any sort of discrimination or retaliation for their report, said Cupich, and he suggested that “due attention” be given to the involvement of laypersons who are experts in the process. The role of the metropolitan archbishop should be increased, suggested Cupich, and the metropolitan should be able to recommend “precautionary measures” to dioceses with accused bishops, and the metropolitan should be free to request an authorization from the Holy See to investigate an allegation of abuse against a bishop. “After the metropolitan receives authorization, he should gather all relevant information expeditiously, in collaboration with lay experts, to ensure the professional and rapid execution of the investigation,” which Cupich advised should be concluded promptly. A common fund could be established at different levels in order to pay for these new investigation techniques, said Cupich. After the investigation, Cupich said the metropolitan archbishop would forward all information gathered to the Holy See, where the pope would then proceed to make a final decision in the ensuing penal process. These new frameworks will require “steadfast trust and openness in identifying with the aid of everyone in the Church, and with due regard for the diverse cultures and the universality of our Church.” In order for these changes to happen, Cupich said, the bishops need to adopt what he termed a “synodal vision” that is “rooted in discernment, conversion and reform at every level.” The Church, he explained, has a sacred bond with her members, much like the bond between a parent and child. “The Church must truly be Pieta; broken in suffering, consoling in enveloping love, constant in pointing to the divine tenderness of God amidst the pangs of desolation in those who have been crushed by clergy abuse.”

O'Malley defends 'zero tolerance' approach to abusive priests

Vatican City, Feb 22, 2019 / 04:00 pm (CNA).- Cardinals and clergy participating in the Vatican’s sex abuse summit expressed conflicting views on the use of the term “zero tolerance” Friday, with some claiming that “zero tolerance” is an American concept with a legalistic focus. Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston, one of the pope’s primary advisors on sexual abuse, said he knows that “there is a lot of resistance to using the terminology” of zero-tolerance at the summit because some believe it sounds “secular.” But, the cardinal insisted that the principle was “clearly articulated” by Pope St. John Paul II. “There is no place in ministry for someone who harms a child and that has to be a line in the sand. That is something that is so important for all of us,” O’Malley said at a Vatican press conference Feb. 22. Father Federico Lombardi, acting moderator at the Vatican sex abuse summit, told the press he does not use the term “zero tolerance” when he writes about the protection of minors because its definition is limited compared to what Vatican meeting has set out to accomplish. “‘Zero tolerance’ … clearly refers to a very limited aspect of the problem we are confronting because the entire dimension of the pastoral care for victims, accompaniment, the selection of members of the clergy, prevention in parishes and in our activities, the definition of zero tolerance does not cover these aspects. It refers to one way of punitive action against criminals,” Lombardi said. “This is very important fundamental part, but it is one part of the entire area of the protection of minors, which I think is much broader than ‘zero tolerance,’” he continued. Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta supported the notion of “zero tolerance,” saying that “we cannot allow anyone in ministry” who might harm the young, but stated that “the prudential approach is not primarily a criminal approach -- I’m not going to remove someone from ministry to punish them, but to protect the flock.” Scicluna added that “those who don’t like the notion of ‘zero tolerance’ … don’t know what this means.” “This is a principle already stated very clearly by John Paul II in his 23 April 2002 and this is what is to fuel every decision from the prudential and pastoral standpoint. It has a fundamental principle if the person is removed to spend a life of prayer and repentance,” he said. O’Malley explained that in the United States’ Dallas Charter for the Protection of Minors “the commitment was no one could continue in ministry after having harmed a child,” and that he would “advocate for that everywhere.” Others focused on “zero tolerance” as “an American and Canadian” concept. Lombardi said at the press conference, “As Cardinal O’Malley says, to the Americans, the Canadians, it means something very specific. Anybody who has committed a serious offence they cannot remain in ministry, well I agree, but when I talk about protection of minors, I am talking about a lot of other things as well.” While O’Malley advanced the idea of an application of the American model of protection of minors elsewhere, Cupich warned against becoming “imperialists” from “the United States or from the Western world” in dealing with different areas of the world that do “not have the experience of talking about these very intimate personal issues in a public way.” In response  to a question about the difficulty of cultural diversity in the meeting of the world’s bishops, Cupich added that “this is what synodality is about -- it is walking together with each other, but also maybe learning from their experience and their own culture that there are some things that we could improve on given the richness of their own culture.” The second day of the the Vatican abuse summit focused on the theme of “accountability,” which included discussion of “zero tolerance.” Sex abuse victims on the sidelines of the Vatican summit have been calling for “zero tolerance” for sex abuse for both abuses and bishops who cover-up abuse. Some survivors’ organizations, such as Ending Clergy Abuse, specified that for them “zero-tolerance” meant “laicization” for such bishops and abuser priests. O’Malley explained that within current U.S. protocols, the specific promise of “zero tolerance” is that abuser priests will be removed from ministry in all cases. “The conclusion wasn’t automatically that they would be laicized...and that if they were elderly or sickly that they would have prayer or penance. And some religious communities thought it was better to maintain that person within the community to be able to monitor them for the safety of children,” O’Malley said. O’Malley also said that he has been told that the Holy See’s investigation on the American church’s handling of abuser Theodore McCarrick will be released “in the not too distant future.” Scicluna also expressed a desire to someday release statistics from the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith on clerical abuse, and said that he had already spoken with Cardinal Luis Ladaria about the matter. O’Malley clarified that the 21 reflection points given out to bishops on the first day of the summit were a compilation of points submitted by the bishops. “It wasn’t coming from [Pope Francis] himself. On day two of the submit, Pope Francis circulated the United Nations’ document on the rights of a child among the presidents of bishops conferences gathered for the meeting. Cardinal O’Malley said “there is a moral obligation to share this information with the civil authorities for the safety of children. I think that the terrible crisis that we have experienced in the USA is precisely because for so long these crimes were not being reported so reporting to me is a big part of the way forward and for the protection of children.”  

Cardinal Gracias emphasizes collegiality to address sex abuse

Vatican City, Feb 22, 2019 / 02:45 pm (CNA).- Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Bombay called Friday for the “entire Church” to “act decisively to prevent abuse from occurring in the future and to do whatever possible to foster healing for victims.” Calling the abuse suffered at the hands of those in the Church “a profound betrayal of trust,” he offered practical solutions mainly focused on fostering better communication on all levels of the Church’s hierarchy during a Feb. 22 speech at the Vatican. “As serious as the direct abuse of children and vulnerable adults is, the indirect damage inflicted by those with directive responsibility within the Church can be worse by re-victimising those who have already suffered abuse,” the cardinal noted. Gracias is one of the principal organizers of a Vatican summit taking place this week to address the sexual abuse of minors, which features the presidents of national bishops’ conferences worldwide. Gracias himself admitted to the BBC Feb. 21 that he could have better handled sexual abuse allegations that were brought to him in the past, after several Indian victims of sexual abuse told the BBC that Gracias failed to respond quickly or offer support to victims. Gracias said the way to address the crisis must involve the “regional, national, local-diocesan, and even parochial levels,” which all must work together to create binding measures and decisions. He noted a recent meeting of the bishops of the Democratic Republic of Congo as an example of the bishops of a nation coming together in a collegial manner to address national challenges. “No bishop should say to himself, ‘I face these problems and challenges alone,’” Gracias underscored, speaking of the concepts of collegiality and synodality. “Because we belong to the college of bishops in union with the Holy Father, we all share accountability and responsibility. Collegiality is an essential context for addressing wounds of abuse inflicted on victims and on the Church at large.” Gracias cited a passage from Lumen gentium, the Second Vatican Council's dogmatic constitution on the Church, which teaches that individual bishops are “obliged by Christ's institution and command to be solicitous for the whole Church.” He also noted that further development of “intercultural competences” and intercultural communication will help with effective decision making. “The point is clear,” Gracias said. “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.’ We are each responsible for the whole Church. We hold accountability and responsibility together. We extend our concern beyond our local Church to embrace all the Churches with which we are in communion.” Gracias pointed out that a culture of silence among bishops, unwilling to admit to mistakes and to engage other bishops in open conversation and point out “problematic behavior,” has contributed to the abuse crisis. He encouraged the cultivation of a culture of fraternal correction, where bishops are able to correct each other without offending the other, while also recognizing “criticism from a brother as an opportunity to better fulfil our tasks.” He also called for better communication between bishops' conferences and Rome. “We can always only take responsibility for something insofar as we are allowed to do so, and the more responsibility we are granted, the better we can serve our own flock,” he said. Gracias highlighted three main themes for his brother bishops to reflect on: justice, healing, and pilgrimage. “The sexual abuse of minors and other vulnerable people not only breaks divine and ecclesiastical law, it is also public criminal behaviour,” he said. “The Church does not only live in an isolated world of its own making...Those who are guilty of criminal behaviour are justly accountable to civil authority for that behaviour.” Although the Church is not an agent of the state, he said, the Church recognises the legitimate authority of civil law and the state and cooperates with civil authorities to bring justice to survivors. This is only possible if bishops and local Churches can work together to build an appropriate relationship with the state. Healing for victims requires “clear, transparent, and consistent communication” from the Church as well, Gracias said, beginning with “a respectful outreach and an honest acknowledgement of their pain and hurt.” “Although this would seem to be obvious, it has not always been communicated,” he said. “Ignoring or minimising what victims have experienced only exacerbates their pain and delays their healing. Within a collegial Church, we can summon each other to attentiveness and compassion that enable us to make this outreach and acknowledgement.” Once the hurt has been acknowledged, the Church can offer to help victims heal with the help of “professional counselling to support groups of peers” or other means, and can then implement measures to prevent abuse in the future. “Our Holy Father has wisely and correctly said that abuse is a human problem. It is not, of course, limited to the Church. In fact, it is a pervasive and sad reality across all sectors of life. Out of this particularly challenging moment in the life of the Church, we – again in a collegial context – can draw on and develop resources which can be of great service to a larger world.” Finally, the cardinal reflected on the pilgrim nature of the Church, noting that “we know that we have not yet arrived at our destination,” and “we are a community that is called to continuous repentance and continuous discernment.” “We must repent – and do so together, collegially – because along the way we have failed. We need to seek pardon. We must also be in a process of continuous discernment. In other words, together or collegially, we need to watch, wait, observe, and discover the direction that God is giving us in the circumstances of our lives,” Gracias said. The cardinal concluded by reminding his brother bishops that undertaking these tasks is not their mission alone, but that these actions “are the work of the Holy Spirit.” “So, let the last word be Veni, Sancte Spiritus, veni,” he concluded.

Analysis: In spite of itself, Vatican abuse summit may still do some good

Vatican City, Feb 22, 2019 / 12:32 pm (CNA).- The Vatican’s abuse summit this week will not solve the problems plaguing the Catholic Church in the U.S. In fact, it doesn’t aim to. The summit was called by Pope Francis in September, shortly after he was accused of ignoring reports about the predatory behavior of disgraced former cardinal Theodore McCarrick. But from the beginning, Pope Francis and meeting organizers have been disinclined to include in the summit's schedule any discussion of the issues the Church in the U.S. faces. Conference organizers, including Chicago’s Cardinal Blase Cupich, have insisted even this week that the summit will not discuss predatory homosexual behavior.   In a Feb. 22 press conference, Archbishop Charles Scicluna went so far as to acknowledge a reporter’s point that homosexual behavior in seminaries fosters a culture of cover-up, before he said, curtly, that “this has nothing to do with the sexual abuse of minors.” Scicluna said this despite McCarrick’s coercion of both vulnerable seminarians and teenaged boys, and despite the fact that most clerical abuse of minors in the West has targeted post-pubescent boys. In fact, the first reported victim of McCarrick was 16 and 17 at the time he was abused. Is it possible to focus discussion so myopically and insistently on child sexual abuse as to ignore the idea that sexually abusing a 17-year-old might have something to do with sexual immorality among adults? Will Catholics accept the presupposition that those who sexually abuse 17-year-olds have an entire different moral or psychological pathology than those who sexually abuse 18-year-olds, or who coerce them into the veneer of consent against the backdrop of an extraordinary power imbalance? Those ideas, many Catholics will conclude, simply belie credibility. The summit will also not discuss in-depth the need for mechanisms of accountability for negligent or malfeasant bishops, despite the fact that McCarrick’s behavior went unchecked even after it was reported multiple times, and the fact that several U.S. bishops now face charges of negligence or misconduct. While Cupich gave a presentation on some approaches to procedural investigations, he presented only the plan that would vest investigative responsibility for bishops only in their archbishops, though lay experts, including the National Review Board in the U.S., have supported alternative proposals. His address did not mention the potential for metropolitans to incur significant legal liability through the so-called “metropolitan model,” though this is a point of considerable importance with regard to the Church in the U.S. Critics of the summit charge that the pope called this meeting mostly as a diversion from the accusations of negligence he’s faced personally, stemming from his handling of accused prelates in the U.S., South America, and Europe. The pope still faces questions about his handling of the cases of Chile’s Bishop Juan Barros, McCarrick, Argentine Bishop Gustavo Zanchetta, whom Francis promoted despite evidence of serious sexual malfeasance, among others. But even if the narrow focus of this meeting is intended to change the topic of global conversation, this week’s abuse summit can still do some real good for children around the world. There is a serious need for safeguarding policies in most of the developing world, and introducing them in the Church may catalyze their more widespread adoption. But by design, the Vatican summit won’t answer the issues embroiling local churches in the U.S. And Catholics are especially frustrated because when U.S. bishops attempted to vote on a reform package in November, they were stopped by the Vatican, and advised to wait until after this week’s meeting. Now some bishops wonder what, exactly, they were supposed to be waiting for. Real reform in the diocese of the U.S., it is becoming clear, will depend a great deal on local bishops making local changes in their local churches. Last month, the Archbishop of Baltimore announced a comprehensive whistleblower policy for his diocese, rather than wait for one to be introduced nationally. Other bishops can follow suit. In response to the crisis, they can also develop more exacting local norms for screening seminary candidates, take up new approaches to leadership of their priests and lay employees, and they can commit to making themselves accountable to independent lay leaders. The work of the Church continues in this country, even amid the crisis it faces. Catholic schools continue to educate millions of students, many of them poor. Catholic charities continue to serve the homeless, the undocumented, and the unseen. Catholic hospitals continue to treat the uninsured. And Catholic parishes continue striving to love the unloved- those whom Pope Francis says live on the “existential peripheries” of our society. The Church does all this in service to the Gospel it professes. But to continue to do so with credibility, the sexual abuse crisis must be addressed. Neither the Vatican nor the national bishops’ conference has yet acted decisively to address the full scope of the crisis. And this week, the Vatican seems to have demonstrated key components of the crisis. But local bishops can, and without waiting for anyone else to act. Some have already begun that work, and the rest may soon be convinced to join them.  

Women of Catholic Worker Movement on prayerful pilgrimage for abuse summit

Rome, Italy, Feb 22, 2019 / 05:02 am (CNA).- American women from the Catholic Worker Movement are in Rome this week to pray for the Vatican’s sexual abuse summit in emulation of Dorothy Day’s Roman pilgrimage to fast and pray for peace. “We've all been very deeply grieved by the sex abuse crisis, and the crisis it has created for the entire Church,” Catholic Worker Movement leader Johanna Berrigan told CNA Feb. 21. “It just dawned on us that this would be an important time to be in Rome, to bear witness to the suffering Church that we care deeply about and … we wanted to address ways for reform,” she said. Through her involvement in the Catholic Worker Movement, a group dedicated to aiding and advocating for the poor, Berrigan co-founded the Catholic Worker Free Clinic for homeless and uninsured adults in Philadelphia in 1991 and opened another medical clinic in Haiti in 2005. Berrigan, along with six other women, decided in November that they wanted to be in Rome as the summit was happening to pray and to give a voice to women, mothers, and lay people in the Vatican’s discussion of the issue. “When we first heard about it, it was strictly bishops that were invited, we have since learned that there has been some lay involvement,” Berrigan explained. Three of the nine official speakers at the Vatican sex abuse summit Feb. 21 - 24 are women, one of whom is a religious sister from Nigeria, Sister Veronica Openibo. On the first day of the summit, the women were invited for a surprise visit to the US Embassy to the Holy See, where they met with Ambassador Callista Gingrich to discuss their perspective on the sex abuse crisis. The seven Catholic Worker Movement women on pilgrimage meet each day to decide which historic churches they should visit to pray for the summit. “We have an example in Dorothy Day, our foundress, who came to Rome in another significant point in the Church's history and she and a delegation of women came on pilgrimage to fast and pray for the Church to recognize 'conscientious objection,' and really calling for an end to nuclear weapons. So we have that in our history,” Berrigan said. Dorothy Day, whose cause for canonization has been opened, founded the Catholic Worker Movement with Peter Maurin in 1933, starting soup kitchens, farm communities, and a Catholic newspaper. She dedicated her life to aiding and advocating for the poor and leading a life characterized by voluntary poverty and works of mercy. During their time in Rome, the Catholic Worker Movement women attended a sex abuse survivors’ vigil sponsored by Ending Clergy Abuse Feb. 21 in solidarity with victims. At the vigil, the women called for justice for survivors and an end to clericalism, as well as truth, reconciliation and healing for the entire Church. “We care deeply about this Church, we are very, very grateful that Pope Francis has called this summit. It seems to be a step forward,” Berrigan said. “The world is watching ... people of all faiths are watching to see what the outcome of [this summit] is going to be,” she said.

Tagle: Confront the 'stench of filth' caused by abuse

Vatican City, Feb 21, 2019 / 05:30 pm (CNA).- An expert on abuse prevention offered “practical suggestions” to participants at a Vatican summit on child sexual abuse on Thursday, while two cardinals encouraged bishops to work together to support victims of clerical abuse. Archbishop Charles J. Scicluna, adjunct secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith told the Vatican’s Meeting of the Presidents of the Bishops’ Conferences on Safeguarding of Minors that bishops should make know that Catholics have both “the duty and the right” to report any sort of clerical sexual misconduct or abuse to Church officials. Scicluna advised that the contact information for Church leaders be made publicly available and easy to access. He called for the establishment of protocols governing how the Church handles abuse, and he encouraged Church leaders to cooperate with civil authorities and other experts on abuse. “It is important that every allegation is investigated with the help of experts and that the investigation is concluded without unnecessary delay,” he said. He also noted that the practice of establishing review boards and safeguarding commissions has “proved to be beneficial” in areas where this is commonplace. It can be helpful for bishops to work together and share their experiences in how they have dealt with their priests being accused of abuse, explained Scicluna. “As shepherds of the Lord’s flock we should not underestimate the need to confront ourselves with the deep wounds inflicted on victims of sex abuse by members of the clergy,” he said, and said that bishops need to be like Simon of Cyrene, who helped Christ carry the cross, by assisting abuse victims who carry the cross of their abuse. Scicluna, a canon lawyer, also called for just canonical processes that respect the rights of accused clerics. “The essence of a just process requires that the accused is presented with all arguments and evidence against him; that the accused is given the full benefit of the right of presenting his defense; that judgement is given based on the facts of the case and the law applicable to the case; that a reasoned judgement or decision is communicated in writing to the accused and that the accused enjoy a remedy against a judgement or decision that aggrieves him,” said Scicluna. A canonical penal process can have three results, explained Scicluna: one in which the accused is guilty; one in which neither the guilt nor innocence of the accused can be proven; or one in which the accused is exonerated. While the guilty and innocent verdicts are relatively easy for a bishop to digest, a verdict of decisio dismissoria, where the guilt of the accused is unclear, can be problematic for bishops to deal with, Scicluna explained. In these situations, particularly when a claim of abuse is credible but not proven, a bishop or religious superior should exercise prudence, and consult with experts in deciding what to do next. Whatever step is taken, Scicluna said, it should be guaranteed that children and young people will be kept safe. “An essential aspect of the exercise of stewardship in these cases is the proper interface with civil jurisdiction,” said Scicluna. Misconduct that rises to a criminal level must be reported to state authorities, who can proceed to investigate the claim and punish the crime or award damages to victims. Bishops should be aware, he explained, that the conclusion of a criminal investigation and a canonical penal process may be different, and that there are different standards of evidence in these systems, as well as different statutes of limitations. Working with civil authorities can help better safeguard children, he explained. Scicluna cited the example of a priest accused of possessing child pornography as a situation in which civil authorities are likely better equipped to investigate and charge someone than a Church official. Scicluna encouraged his brother bishops to focus their efforts on preventing sexual abuse, which he said is achieved through a more thorough screening process of candidates for seminary, particularly on the topics of celibacy and chastity. “A just and balanced understanding of the demands of priestly celibacy and chastity should be underpinned by a profound and healthy formation in human freedom and sound moral doctrine,” said Scicluna. Those studying to be priests need to “nurture and grow in that spiritual fatherhood” that should be their motivation for their work in ministry. Bishops and religious superiors should also embrace a sense of spiritual fatherhood, he said, through the priests they lead. A good bishop will lead by example, and will follow abuse protocols and codes of conduct. “Above all, the ordinary is responsible in guaranteeing and promoting the personal, physical, mental and spiritual well-being of his priests.” Cardinal Luis Antonio G. Tagle of Manila said in his Thursday address that bishops need to better understand the wounds caused by clerical sexual abuse, adding that he fears that bishops have “found the stench of filth inflicted on children and vulnerable people (they) were supposed to protect” to be “too strong to endure.” Tagle drew inspiration from the Gospel story where Thomas doubts that Jesus has resurrected, and has to touch the wounds of Christ before he can proclaim that the Lord is his God. The action of touching Christ’s wounds was “fundamental to the act and confession of faith.” Like Thomas, Tagle thinks that the bishops need to be “constantly in touch with the wounds of humanity,” which they can do by confronting the abuse crisis, their failings, and by providing assistance to those who are hurting. “Our people need us to draw close to their wounds and acknowledge our faults if we are to give authentic and credible witness to our faith in the Resurrection,” said Tagle. He encouraged people to discard any fears of being wounded and to instead “draw close to the wounds of our people.” Tagle argued that a two-pronged approach for both justice for those who were abused, as well as forgiveness for abusers is the best way for the Church to move forward in confronting the abuse crisis. He said it is not necessary to think in “either/or” terms, but rather, he advocates for a mentality of “both/and.” “Regarding victims, we need to help them express their deep hearts and to heal from them,” said Tagle. “Regarding the perpetrators, we need to serve justice, help them to face the truth without rationalization, and at the same time not neglect their inner world, their own wounds.” Cardinal Rubén Salazar Gómez of Bogota condemned a culture of clericalism as the “deeper root” of the abuse crisis. Clericalism, he said, is a force that converts ministry “into a means to impose force, to violate the conscience and the bodies of the weakest.” Clericalism, said Gómez, has led to “serious errors of authority” and has exacerbated the abuse crisis in the Church. Bishops are “hardly ever aware” that clericalism underlies their ministry, he said, and there must be an effort to “unmask” this mentality and bring about positive changes. Bishops are responsible for increasing their own awareness that they are dependent upon each other, and that the Church and her bishops have failed in the past in their response to abuse. “We often proceed like the hirelings, who, on seeing the wolf coming, flee and leave the flock unprotected,” said Gómez. “Fleeing,” he said, took the form of ignoring claims of abuse, failing to assist survivors of abuse, or attempting to silence survivors with monetary settlements. This “clerical mentality” places the Church above both justice and the suffering experienced by those who were abused, he explained. In order to effectively protect the vulnerable, Gómez called for both a unified front among the bishops, as well as a “Code of Conduct” for bishops that provides a framework for the best way to handle allegations of abuse by members of the clergy. “Its obligatory nature will be a guarantee that we all act in unison and in the right direction, since it gives us clear norms to control our conduct and provides concrete suggestions for the necessary corrective measures,” he said, and also pointed out that this code of conduct would be “a concrete way of strengthening the communion that is born of episcopal collegiality.”  

Polish sex abuse victims meet Pope Francis, release abuse report

Vatican City, Feb 21, 2019 / 02:16 pm (CNA).- A Polish delegation of sex abuse victims and advocates met Pope Francis Wednesday, and presented the pope with a report documenting alleged clergy sexual abuse cases and cover-up throughout their country. “It was a very powerful moment for … [the] victims in Poland to see this gesture,” Anna Frankowska, a board member of the Have No Fear foundation, told CNA Feb. 21. The pope met a delegation from Have No Fear, a Polish organization that hosts support groups for sex abuse victims, after his General Audience Feb. 20, and Francis silently kissed the founder’s hand. “We recognize that is a very symbolic gesture, but it is not enough. We are demanding specific action,” Frankowska said. The Polish group presented the pope with a Spanish copy of a report published this week documenting alleged “violations of civil and canon law by Polish bishops in the context of priests who engaged in sexual abuse of minors,” and said that Pope Francis “confirmed that he would read it.” The report documents more than 20 cases of clergy sexual abuse and the responses by their respective Polish bishops. Unlike recent reports of clergy abuse in the United States, the documented cases are not from the 1960s-80s, but only come from the last three decades. In the report, Have No Fear accuses 24 former and current Polish bishops of having protected or transferred child-abusing priests. “Since 2005, the Catholic Church has been particularly involved in efforts to protect children and young people against sexual abuse by clerics,” a Polish bishops' conference document states. At least 11 of the cases listed in the report occurred after 2005, and four are alleged to have taken place as recently as 2011-2012. In one case, a priest who had been convicted and sentenced to prison in the United States for sexually assaulting a 17-year-old girl in 2005, was deported to Poland, where he served as a parish priest working with young people beginning in 2009, and worked as a religious educator in a middle school. The priest, Father Roman Kramek, testified to U.S. police that “he had intercourse as a therapeutic tool in order to help the girl forget an earlier rape,” according to the report. The Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith was notified of the case nearly ten years later, in October 2018, and Kramek continues to serve as a parish priest in Poland, according to Have No Fear. The Polish bishops' conference responded to the report by “strongly and decisively condemn[ing] all sexual abuse of minors in the Church and in society as a whole.” “In the Catholic Church, every believer can present his case to the Holy Father as the Supreme Pastor. The Holy See, on the other hand, has the opportunity to evaluate and verify reported cases,” Polish bishops’ spokesman Father Pawel Rytel-Andianik told CNA. “According to the Church and civil law, there is the principle of presumed innocence of a person until the contrary is proven,” he said, adding that various dioceses in Poland were already claiming misinformation in the report. Recently, the Polish bishops' conference took additional steps to further develop prevention programs and meet with victims. In August 2018, diocesan bishops in Poland decided to develop a prevention program for every Polish diocese against crimes of sexual abuse of children. A Child Protection Center was established in 2014 to provide “training and educational activities in the psychological, pedagogical and spiritual fields related to the sexual abuse of minors and the preparation and development of prevention programs and examples of good practice for various pastoral, formative and educational environments in order to help them create safe environments for children and adolescents.” Have No Fear was founded in 2013 and became affiliated with the international network Ending Clergy Abuse in 2016. The group updates a “Map of Clerical Abuse in Poland” online, which maps out 384 victims, 85 convicted perpetrators, and 95 instances of abuse reported by victims. In the past year, the organization delivered a letter to Archbishop Wojciech Polak of Gniezo requesting the establishment of an independent committee to analyze the scale of clerical sex abuse in Poland, abolish the statute of limitations for such offenses, hold accountable perpetrators and their superiors who conceal abuse, and provide victims of abuse with full access to the files of their canon law proceedings. “We look in particular to the situation in Chile, where the pope dismissed bishops. We think that the situation in Poland is quite similar to the situation in Chile, and the time to act is now,” Frankowska told CNA. Last May all of the bishops of Chile presented Pope Francis with written resignations following a CDF investigation into episcopal cover-up of the sexual abuse of Father Fernando Karadima. “We believe that we are still years behind other jurisdictions,” she continued. “For a long time victims were ostracized or were afraid to speak out. Things are slowly changing.”

Pope proposes 21 'reflection points' for discussion at abuse summit

Vatican City, Feb 21, 2019 / 11:56 am (CNA).- Pope Francis on Thursday gave participants in a Vatican summit on protection of minors in the Church a list of nearly two dozen discussion points for actions Catholic Church leaders could potentially take in the follow-up to the meeting. The pope said during opening remarks Feb. 21 that the criteria were formulated by various bishops’ conferences and organized by him into the list, stating they are “guidelines to assist in our reflection” and “a simple point of departure.” The 21 points include suggestions to have periodic reviews of protocols on safeguarding, handbooks of steps authorities should take in abuse cases, provisions for facilitating the participation of lay experts in investigations, and the direction to inform civil authorities and higher Church authorities in compliance with civil and canonical norms. Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta, responding to questions from journalists in the afternoon on Thursday said the points are complete, and a “roadmap” for the bishops’ discussions this week. He also said that were they to be made into concrete proposals, they would need “substantial revision.” In regard to one point, that broaches the idea of amending the Code of Canon Law to raise the minimum age of marriage for women from 14 to 16, Scicluna clarified that bishops' conferences already have the power to create their own legislation in regard to the minimum marriageable age, and that many had already raised the age to 16 for both men and women. “The pope is suggesting making that universal law,” Scicluna said.   Other points the pope raised in the list were to “accompany, protect and treat victims, offering them all the necessary support for a complete recovery” and to establish easily-accessible groups made up of experts, including both clerics and laypeople, to which victims can report crimes. Several of the suggestions are on the theme of seminary formation of priests and the proper penalties for priests or religious who commit abuse. One suggests initial and ongoing formation for seminarians and candidates for religious life, to help them “develop their human, spiritual and psychosexual maturity, as well as their interpersonal relationships and behavior.” Another recommends observing “the traditional principle of proportionality of punishment with respect to the crime committed” and another recalls the right to defense and the importance of the presumption of innocence. “Therefore, it is necessary to prevent the lists of the accused being published, even by the dioceses, before the preliminary investigation and the definitive condemnation,” it states. Scicluna, a canon lawyer and adjunct secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, agreed. In reference to a question about releasing names of accused clergy, Scicluna said, “for simple allegations, it is my opinion it is premature.” “You need a credible allegation as the lowest threshold,” he said, in order to not cause undue harm to someone’s good name. “We’re for disclosure, but in the right way. It’s legitimate to declare there are credible allegations.” Peter Isley, victim of clergy sexual abuse and a spokesperson for “End Clergy Abuse” responded to the 21 reflection points, calling them “not very concrete points.” “I’ll tell you what the roadmap in here is, it’s a circle,” he told journalists Feb. 21. Isley was vocal in his opinion that the ideas presented in the list of reflection points do not go far enough in implementing “zero tolerance” against priests who have abused minors or bishops who have covered it up. “There is nothing there that wasn’t there yesterday,” he stated. Referencing a point in the list, he said, “They put together a handbook [when] this is about the rape and sexual abuse of children!” Isley added that he believes a priest who has abused a minor “has betrayed the priesthood,” and should not only be removed from ministry, but should have the “honor” of priesthood taken away through laicization. If you are a bishop, “you make very, very sure, that if your priest has assaulted a child, and you know he has, that he’s not going to harm a child in the Catholic Church ever, ever, ever again,” he said. “You take that man out of ministry, that’s the first thing, because he could harm a child. What kind of pastor wouldn’t do that?” Scicluna said in the press conference that “punishment needs to take care of the common good, so they [clerics found guilty of sexual abuse of minors] cannot be in active ministry,” echoing a reflection point that says: “Decide that priests and bishops guilty of sexual abuse of minors leave public ministry.” He added that in his opinion, however, the decision to dismiss a priest from the clerical state, also called laicization, should be determined on a case-by-case basis. At the presser, Scicluna also noted that while there is currently no compiled statistics on abuse cases being handled in the CDF, the material exists. He said that he recently spoke with Cardinal Luis Ladaria, CDF prefect, and he said the possibility exists for those statistics to be compiled, contextualized, and published “in the near future.”

Francis opens abuse summit with call for 'concrete measures'

Vatican City, Feb 21, 2019 / 04:20 am (CNA).- At the start of the Vatican’s sex abuse summit Thursday, Pope Francis pointed to expectations for the meeting to produce responsibility and concrete action, not just denunciations of abuse. “The holy People of God looks at us and expects from us not simple and obvious condemnations, but to prepare concrete and effective measures,” the pope said Feb. 21, in the Synod Hall of the Vatican. A burden “of pastoral and ecclesial responsibility weighs on us” in this meeting, he urged bishops, noting the obligation to “discuss together, in a synodal, sincere and in-depth manner, how to face this evil that afflicts the Church and humanity.” The pope’s brief remarks followed the opening prayer of the four-day meeting, which includes the heads of bishops’ conferences, Eastern Catholic Churches, and religious communities, and is focused on the education of bishops on the protection of minors in the Church. Invoking the guidance of the Holy Spirit, Francis urged the Church leaders to “listen to the cry of the little ones who ask for justice,” adding that they must begin the work of the summit “armed with faith and the spirit of maximum parrhesia, courage and concreteness.” He thanked the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors (PCPM), the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and the organizing committee, which includes Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago, Maltese Archbishop and CDF adjunct secretary Charles Scicluna, and Fr. Hans Zollner, SJ, for their work preparing the meeting. In his speech, Francis also pointed to guidelines from bishops’ conferences which have been handed out to summit participants as a reference point for reflection, though he added that they would “not detract from the creativity that must exist in this meeting.” He concluded by calling on the Holy Spirit for support in helping to “transform this evil in to an opportunity for awareness and purification” and the Virgin Mary to enlighten them “to seek to care for the serious wounds that the scandal of pedophilia has caused both in children and in believers.” In the course of the morning, the meeting participants listened to keynotes by Cardinal Luis Tagle of Manila and by Scicluna and participated in working group discussions. They also heard, by video, five testimonies of abuse victims. The identities of the victims were not revealed to press, who received only text versions of the addresses. In the first testimony, of a victim from Chile, it was noted that everyone knows the “tremendous consequences” of abuse, but for a Catholic, “the most difficult thing is to be able to speak about sexual abuse.” The victim speaks about their desire to speak with the Church about the abuse, and that they expected respect and listening, but instead were treated “as a liar,” telling them they and others “were enemies of the Church.” “This pattern exists not only in Chile: it exists all over the world, and this must end,” the person said, adding that victims should be “believed, respected, cared for, and healed.”    “I wonder: but what does Jesus think. What does Mary think, when she sees that it is her own shepherds who betray their own little sheep?” the victim stated. Another testimony was in the format of a short interview, in which a woman explained that she had been abused by a priest for 13 years, starting at the age of 15. She says she was economically dependent on the priest, who would beat her if she refused to have sex with him. She said during the course of their “relationship” she became pregnant three times and was forced to have abortions by her abuser. Today, she said, she feels like her life has been “destroyed” and she does not know “what the future holds.” Her message for the bishops was to love others by willing their good. A third testimony was given by a 53-year-old religious priest, who was abused by a priest as a teenager. He said that he was also hurt by the treatment he received from his bishop, who he said first did not respond to his letters, and later attacked him, when as an adult he went to speak with him about the abuse. “I wanted someone to listen to me, to know who that man is, that priest and what he does. I forgive that priest from the heart, and the bishop. I thank God for the Church, I am grateful to be in the Church. I have many priest friends who have helped me,” he said. In another testimony, which was given in English, a man reflected on the loss of innocence and the pain inflicted on him and on his relationships because of priestly abuse. He said that today he has found hope and healing, but that what he would ask for from the bishops is “leadership and vision and courage.” He referenced a moment when Cardinal Francis George, the archbishop-emeritus of Chicago who died in 2015, spoke about the difficulties of priests who have abused, as an example of right leadership. From Asia, in the final testimony a person described being “sexually molested for a long time, over a hundred times,” creating traumas and flashbacks across their life. The victim also stated that when they had approached provincials and major superiors about the abuse, they “practically covered every issue.” The victim concluded by requesting bishops “get their act clear” in answering the crisis of sexual abuse.