Fr. Lombardi on Sex Abuse

A frank commentary by Frederico Lombardi, S.J., the Vatican press officer, on sexual abuse:

The debate concerning sexual abuse, and not only that committed by the clergy, continues with news items and comments of various kinds. How can we sail through these stormy waters while maintaining a secure course and responding to the evangelical motto 'Duc in altum - Put out into the deep'?

In the first place, by continuing to seek truth, and peace for the victims. One of the most striking things is that today so many inner wounds are coming to light, wounds that also date to many years (sometimes decades) ago, but evidently still open, Many victims do not seek financial compensation but inner assistance, a judgement on their painful individual experiences. There is something that we have yet to fully understand; perhaps we need a more profound experience of events that have had such a negative impact on the lives of individuals, of the Church and of society. One example of this, at the collective level, is the hatred and violence of conflicts between peoples which are, as we see, so difficult to overcome in true reconciliation. Abuse opens wounds at a deep inner level. For this reason, certain episcopates were right when they courageously resumed developing ways and places in which victims could express themselves freely, listening to them without taking it for granted that the problem had already been faced and overcome by the workshops established sometime ago. For this reason also, other episcopates and individual bishops were right to intervene paternally, showing spiritual, liturgical and human concern for victims. It seems certain that the number of new accusations of abuse is falling, as is happening in the United States, but for many people the road to profound healing is only now beginning, and for others it has yet to start. In the context of this concern for victims, the Pope has written of his readiness to hold new meetings with then, thus sharing in the journey of the entire ecclesial community. But this journey, in order to achieve profound effects, must take place in respect for people and the search for peace.

The rest at the Vatican Information Service here.

James Martin, SJ

Advertisement
Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
SNAP Network
7 years 8 months ago
''It seems certain that the number of new accusations of abuse is falling, as is happening in the United States.''
Lombardi is being disingenuous at best and reckless at worst by making this claim. There's simply no world-wide evidence to suggest this.
A self-survey of bishops seems to indicate abuse may be declining in the US, but the US accounts for only 4% of the world's Catholics. There is absolutely no evidence whatsoever in the other 96% of the global church about whether clergy sex crimes and cover ups are escalating, declining, or happening at roughly the same rate.
David Clohessy, National Director, SNAP, Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, 7234 Arsenal Street, St. Louis MO 63143, 314 566 9790 cell, SNAPnetwork.org, [email protected]
Kate Smith
7 years 8 months ago
From the commentary by Fr. Lombardi:
 
''Abuse opens wounds at a deep inner level. For this reason, certain episcopates were right when they courageously resumed developing ways and places in which victims could express themselves freely, listening to them without taking it for granted that the problem had already been faced and overcome...''
 
I want to share something that might not be generally known.  Many victims of clergy sexual abuse are not helped by telling their stories, or ''expressing themselves freely''.   I discovered a long time ago that I could not talk about it without destroying my life.  Right from the beginning, after I was sexually assaulted by a Jesuit priest, I called him ''that priest''.    I don't remember ever thinking and choosing that;  it's what some place in my being said was necessary.   For 25 years, I did not say his name.  When I went to ''report it'' (I had tried to report it before, but no one cared.) in 2003, a Jesuit friend said kindly, ''How are you going to report it if you can't say his name?''    Thank God that God made me a lawyer.  I put on my lawyer hat and said that goddamn priest's name....
 
In counseling, my very gifted therapist figured out (and told me later) that he knew talking about it was not leading to healing.   It's just not the way my being is constituted.  Hell, if you make me ( a court deposition), I can do anything.   Truthfully, I just shut down.   I can't go there.   And apparently,  I am not unique that way.  Sexual trauma is different.  But I discovered that people who are dying can react the same way.  Some dying people are simply not helped at all by talking about dying.
 
I'm not an expert on these things.  I wanted to say this because it can explain one small part of the problem.  My attorney happened to mention this to me too.  She has a licensed social worker on her staff.   She told me she does not think it is good to dig into victim's pain  - it can destroy health.   She told me what techinques she learned to use.
 
For me, the only healing thing is to build up the other parts of my life.  I'm the happiest hiking in the mountains with friends and my dog.  Unfortunately, with horrible concentration, work is a very hard struggle (PTSD).  I don't know how life happens this way.  But it's reality.
 
Before finishing, I want to say I saw David Clohessy's comment, and I want to back him 100%.   You can trust whatever David says.   He knows far more than anyone else about victims of clergy abuse, and he would know the state of the evidence.  Trust him.
Carolyn Disco
7 years 8 months ago
Kate,
 
Thank you again for opening your heart. We listen.
 
As to Lombardi's statement, it's on the right track, beginning with focusing on the survivors. But then I just get lost in a fog of words that go on and on, ending expectedly on how great Benedict is. Yes, he has revised grossly negligent procedures and met with survivors (no-brainers to most people, like going from minus zero to plus 3 on a scale of 10 but progress, glacial as it is).
 
Still, I'm tired of words, Lombardi's effort included. Where's the action besides attacking the media (with veiled references to the Jews - ''economic lobby'') and a widespread defense of Benedict, not always based on the facts.
 
Benedict could do more for his credibility in one day by just some of the following: removing Brady in Ireland, accepting the resignations of the three Irish bishops who have already offered it; retire Bernard Law and remove about (dare I quote T. Reese's number?) 30 US bishops; invite Maciel's survivors to the Vatican for profuse apologies and consultation on what to do about the Legion; establish mandatory reporting to law enforcement of abuse allegations throughout the church (except in hostile states); welcome the thousands of survivors coming to St. Peter's Oct. 31 - you get the idea.
 
Leadership that stops blaming everyone but the Vatican is a great start. What is it that happens to a dream delayed too long? It dries up and becomes a raisin in the sun. So little, so late, so let's seriously pick up the pace with meaningful action. Just do it, Benedict. Please!
 
 
Kate Smith
7 years 8 months ago
Carolyn, I like what you said:
 
''Still, I'm tired of words, Lombardi's effort included. Where's the action besides attacking the media (with veiled references to the Jews - ''economic lobby'') and a widespread defense of Benedict, not always based on the facts.''
 
I too am tired of words.   I have been tired of words for a long time.  Only action matters, but action plus words can be a very healing thing.
 
When I was found credible by the Jesuits in 2003, the provincial Frank Reale, a very pastoral person, talked about believing ''the truth will set us free'', and he walked the walk, taking action, responding in all the ways I asked.  Words and action.   Healing.  When somene takes action, the words are a gift.
 
Fast forward to 2009, when I discover that the next provincial, Tim McMahon had allowed the abusive Jesuit to return to public ministry in '06, and he did nothing when I brought this to his attention.  Then McMahon's term was up.
 
Later in 2009, the current provincial Douglas Marcouiller said words that rang bitter and destructive through my soul:  about believing ''the truth will set us free''.    Same words I heard in 2003 from Frank Reale, whose words were accompanied by very appropriate action.   But with Marcouiller, no action was taken, no accountability at all.    He destroyed everything that happened before.    It all went dead.
 
He destroyed everything with his empty words and no action.
 
That's my experience with words and action.   If I wasn't so tired, I'd say it better.
7 years 8 months ago
Mention has not yet been made of the very large number of Bishops who do not subscribe to the teachings of the Church. A priestless priest will always fail to defend the faith. He will also fail to protect children. Hierarchy? No, this is about the state of a Bishop's soul...
Michael Laing
7 years 8 months ago
David, I think that you are right that we cannot really judge actions from 50 years ago by todays standards, which many people are doing.  I also note that I have seen no one in the laity that was observant enough to see the problem and do anything about it.  That just wasn't done in those days.
But the answers to those problems exist in the present.  Thus it seems wrong to me to be blaming the press, this isn't the answer to the problem, nor does it help the victims.  I am not sure what the answer is but circling the wagons won't help.  Further, when push comes to shove, I would not like to see Benedict resign, I would fear greatly that worse might follow him, like maybe Sodono?
It is my sense that many of our bishops and above have lost their sense of spitituality.  Given the culture that they live in, past and present, that materialism has sunk its roots deeply into their culture.  In fact I wonder if they haven't led much of the Church into by their own actions and lives.  Until that spirituality is restored, they will not be able to lead the Church to God, or reach out to the victims of abuse, both sexual and spiritual.
I think that we truly need to pray for them while also demanding reform.  Perhaps condemning them is not the way to go.

Advertisement

Don't miss the best from America

Sign up for our Newsletter to get the Jesuit perspective on news, faith and culture.

The latest from america

Christmas and Hanukkah share much more than the giving of gifts.
Rabbi Daniel F. PolishDecember 12, 2017
It has more to do with prophecy than politics.
Jonathan MerrittDecember 11, 2017
iStock photo
A federal judge wrote that it is unlikely church officials would be able to prove that their constitutional rights were being violated.
Michael J. O’LoughlinDecember 11, 2017
The ‘chaos candidate’ is now our pyromaniac president.
Margot PattersonDecember 11, 2017