Pope Francis summons the world’s top bishops for sexual abuse prevention summit

Pope Francis delivers his speech during his weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican , Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2018. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

­Pope Francis has summoned the president of every bishops conference around the world to a summit meeting in the Vatican on the theme of “the protection of minors.”

The Feb. 21-24, 2019 meeting is believed to be the first of its kind, and signals a realization at the highest levels of the church that clergy sex abuse is a global problem and not restricted to the Anglo-Saxon world, as many church leaders have long insisted.

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Francis called the meeting after consulting the Council of Cardinal Advisors at their meeting in Rome earlier this week. A Vatican statement said the cardinals and the pope discussed at length the subject of abuse in the church.

Paloma Garcia Ovejero, the deputy director of the Holy See Press Office, told journalists in a briefing that the pope has convened the meeting “to talk about the prevention of the abuses of minors and vulnerable adults.”

Francis’ decision comes in the wake of reports and revelations of abuse by priests and religious persons in countries throughout the world, including the United States, Ireland, Australia, Chile, Germany, Belgium, Canada, Italy and also Asia.

It also comes in the aftermath of the Grand Jury Report on the sexual abuse of minors by priests in six dioceses of the state of Pennsylvania, and the resignation of Archbishop Theodore McCarrick from the College of Cardinals.

Wednesday’s announcement comes while the Vatican prepares its response to the letter written by Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, the former nuncio to the United States, in which he accuses more than 30 senior Vatican officials under the pontificates of John Paul II, Benedict XVI and Francis, of a conspiracy of silence, corruption and cover-up in dealing with the abuses committed against seminarians, and at least one minor, by former-cardinal McCarrick.

Sources told America that Pope Francis has been considering making this decision for some time. He was reinforced by his regular personal encounters with many victims and survivors of abuse, including three Chilean victims—Juan Carlos Cruz, Jose Andrés Murillo, and James Hamilton—and most recently, Irish victims of various types of abuse.  And he was also encouraged by cardinals and others to do something of this kind.

Tomorrow, he will meet the leadership of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and is expected to discuss the situation of the church in the six diocese of Pennsylvania in the wake of the Grand Jury Report, as well as the case of the former-cardinal McCarrick.

This story has been updated. Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.

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Jorge Luis Luaces Rabaza
2 months ago

Pope Francis continues to prove over and over again that he is a gift from God to the world and a true St Francis - “rebuild my church”. God is blessing the Catholic Church and the Holy Spirit is guiding the Catholic Church in the person of Pope Francis. He always asks us for our prayers, a sign of true humility. We continue to pray for the Vicar of Christ as some in the US Church have attacked his papacy to undermine the reform desperately needed in the clericalist Church ignored of his predecessors, JPII and B16. Viva Papa Francisco and all Catholics with good will.

AMDG

James Haraldson
2 months ago

A gift from God with a long history of covering for sex abusers himself? Especially those performed by prelates advancing his corrupt evil ideas of "reform" like the murderous depravity of moral relativism? Catholics of good will are outraged at his embrace of the world's most notorious abortionists and Marxist mass murderers.

J Cosgrove
2 months ago

When asked by the rabbi about the incidence of sexual abuse in Buenos Aires, the Pope's response was, "This never happened in my diocese"

A track record that is needed to supervise a reform.

Reyanna Rice
2 months ago

You’re not providing the entire context of that quote. He was not the pope when he stated that and it was before revelations began occurring in Buenos Aires in any significant numbers. The general population of South America have taken a longer time becoming aware that clergy sex abuse was occurring. Most Catholics from South America have had an idealized vision of the clergy and are reluctant to believe a priest would do such a thing, including Jorge Mario Bergoglio. It has been a learning process for him.

J Cosgrove
2 months ago

The quote is from the English edition published just after Pope Francis was elected pope. The Spanish edition was published in 2010 so I assume the quote took place a couple years before that.

Douglas Fang
2 months ago

For the so-called heavy, traditional Catholics or Devoutly Identified Catholics (DICs), there is nothing that this Pope or the Vatican can do to placate them with the exception to rolling back the Church to pre-Vatican 2. If this is not the clearest example of schism then I don’t know what else is. With ample evidence of the fraudulent and coward nature of Vigano, they still stick to his absurd claim. This reminds me of the claim of Trump “…If I shoot someone on the Fifth Ave, people still support me…”.

For the "true followers/believers" of Vigano, nothing is necessary… This is no wonder why that according to several recent worldwide polls, religion is now is considered as having a negative effect on human society by a slight majority. Belief without Reason is Fanatic. We can see the very example of these Fanatics from the comments on this site.

James M.
2 months ago

“If this is not the clearest example of schism then I don’t know what else is.”

Well said. The schismatic tendencies of some of Pope Francis’ more ferocious critics are clear enough. That is good neither for them, not for the Church. It is all the more important not to meet those tendencies with bitterness, but with charity, since it is charity that “forgives all things” and “bears all things”. If Catholics cannot treat the reigning Pope with the respect and reverence and love due to him not only as their fellow-Christian but also as the Successor of Peter, something is wrong. He is the supreme human shepherd of the Flock of Christ - no-one else is. If we cannot treat each other with love, something is wrong.

Michael Barberi
2 months ago

The only thing that matters now is for this Synod and Pope Francis to call for a national (or international) lay-lead impartial committee to thoroughly investigate priests, bishops, cardinals and the past 3 popes based on the accusations in the Grand Jury Report, the entire McCormick sandal and his promotion to cardinal by JP II, as well as the Vigano letter. This investigation must have unfettered access to all documents, emails, reports, etc, and the ability to interview and question hierarchy bishops and cardinals including Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis.

Unless there is complete transparency and significant reforms are instituted including structure, process and juridical, then the credibility of the Church and its leaders, inclusive of popes, will be severely damaged for decades if not centuries. More importantly, those clergy (including bishops and cardinals) found guilty of sexual abusive crimes, coverup, gross negligence, or turning a blind eye to immoral behavior or hiding and minimizing evidence and legitimate accusations, 'must be defrocked'. Additionally, those clergy, et al, found guilty of intentionally issuing falsehoods about their knowledge of sexual abuse or asserting false accusations about bishops, cardinals or popes must be defrocked as well.

We need to wipe clean this culture of clericalism and moral corruption.

Dr Robert Dyson
2 months ago

Unfortunately these big Vatican showpiece occasions tend, after much fuss and fanfare, to fizzle out in a series of vacuous platitudes. Will this be any different? Quite apart from anything else, a synod of bishops in these circumstances is comparable to complaints about the police being investigated by policemen. It has all the hallmarks of a fudge, a dodge, a distraction, a smokescreen ... What we have at the centre of this is an allegation that a Cardinal of the Church - not some wretched ragtag parish prriest or seminarian but a prince of the Church - engaged in squalid misconduct that was knowingly concealed at the very highest level. Something that serious can't be made to go away by convening a synod of kindly old gentlemen to eventually produce a document full of soothing nothings.

Reyanna Rice
2 months ago

This meeting is not a Synod of Bishops. That has been made clear by the Vatican. A Synod has a set pattern to it with the development of an agenda: lineamenta, instrmentum laboris. It is described by canon law. This is a separate convocation of these particular bishops.

James M
2 months ago

Elaine and Mark have already left the church by their own admission. That’s good news.
Elaine is particularly laughable with her pre-1961 comment. She obviously never heard about “Nancy” Spellman’s friendship with J. Edgar Hoover & Clyde Tolson and their romps with the Madison Avenue advertising boys.
The church leadership has been sexually active from time immemorial. Remember Alexander VI? He had 4 children. Lucretia Borgia was a particularly memorable one.
Under Paul VI any priest requesting it could be laicized. JP II shut down laicization. Period. So, there was only one option: Act on your sexuality within the priesthood if they won’t let you out. (Ignoring the unnatural lunacy of celibacy.)
Many of these opinions are beyond pathetic; they’re ignorant of church history.

A Fielder
2 months ago

John Cody was named a Cardinal in 1967. It was very common knowledge that his mistress lived in one of his houses near Mundeluen (the local seminary).. He consistently ignored any local fraternal correction, and I doubt Rome even made an effort. Imagine being a seminarian and knowing that the cardinal behaves in this way. I imagine generations of priests have followed his example. The so-called discipline of celibacy is a facade of fornication, and these people claim to be our moral leaders.

Dennis Hayes
2 months ago

"world's top bishops" is an oxymoron.

Andrew Wolfe
2 months ago

This is totally the wrong summit. A recent article in America pointed out the steep decline in clergy abuse of minors. We've already been protecting minors and with increasing effectiveness.

What's needed is to clean out all the clergy who are unfaithful to their vow of chastity. Let's stop talking about "celibacy," only chastity.

And of those who are the worst damage, they are those who commit unchastity with other clergy and with seminarians. These practices are corrosive to the integrity of the Church because it sets up a mutually protective cabal of secrecy, little different in structure from the network that plundered the Church through the Vatican Bank. These offenders must be uncovered, laicized, and removed from their office.

Lisa Fullam
2 months ago

Wow--still no need for ANY lay voices. So much gets solved in an echo chamber...

arthur mccaffrey
2 months ago

again? I thought he already did this when he appointed Cardinal O'Malley to form a papal Commission for the Protection of Minors 3 years ago, with what results? and now he wants to go down the same road with the same bishops who are part of problem but not part of the solution--how many times does Francis have to form commissions before he GETS IT?!! He has criminal employees who have to be turned over to the police, period!
I would not let Francis babysit my kids or watch my house while I was away on vacation, because I could not trust him to call 911 if there was problem!

Henry Brown
2 months ago

Why it should be helpful to have the American Bishops meet with Pope Francis
in the near future, why is the Vatican waiting until February to have a meeting with the
Bishop around the world ?

I am still waiting for how the Vatican could know what it did about McCarrick and
still make him a Cardinal ? What did John Paul II know before Mcarrick was made
a Bishop and what did Pope Benedict know before McCarrick became a Cardinal.
When did Pope Francis learn that McCarrick had done the things he did ?

This would never be tolerated in any Company that had a shred of morality
why must we be told that it has/was to be tolerated in the Church ?

If the Popes knew and approved of McCarrick then let them remove themselves from
the Public Life and go to a Carthusian Priory and live a life of penance.
If John Paul II knew then let him be stricken from the list of Saints.

If none of the Popes knew, then what is wrong with the Vatican Bureaucracy ?!?

I would like to know what Fr. Martin and other Jesuits at America knew about
McCarrick, when they knew it, and why they did not make public their concerns.

Reyanna Rice
2 months ago

The pope us meeting with the president, vice president and general secretary only of the USCCB, not all the American bishops. And he is doing so at their urgent request to get his input before their general meeting in the US in November.

Henry Brown
2 months ago

Reyanna,

Why doesn't the Pope meet with all the Bishops as soon as possible.

Why the delay ?

Molly Roach
2 months ago

Henry, I agree. February? Really? What is preventing these men from clearing their calendars and getting to this in October? What could have higher priority? Unless of course, this is just a plan for another scripted meeting in which hands are wrung, wrongs are deplored and everyone goes home thinking they've done something. NOT!

Will Niermeyer
2 months ago

The Pope is in over his head with this and the Church should not be the one investigating. This is criminal activity on the part of priests and Bishops of the Church and needs to be handled by legitimate secular legal officials so as to press charges where they can be leveled. The Church handled the first round of this sex abuse activity in the late 1990's and also in the early 2000' I think 2001 or 02 and yet this criminal activity continues. This is no longer a matter of the Church investigating and to be credible must be handled by legal secular authorities in every Country of the world where the Catholic Church is present.

Daniel Shazzar
1 month 3 weeks ago

Agreed. And prosecuted to the fullest extent of the local law on the venue in which the crimes occur!

CAROL STANTON
2 months ago

As Pope Francis of the Field Hospital so often warns, stop the bleeding first! By February we will have bled out.

Crystal Watson
2 months ago

The only way this meeting could make a difference is if the pope mandated reporting rules for bishops around the world. As of now, the Catholic church in many countries doesn't have any rule requiring sex abuse to be reported to authorities by the church ,,, even the bishops in Australia refused to have compulsory reporting of sex abuse - https://www.reuters.com/article/us-australia-abuse/catholic-bishops-in-… ... I don't think the pope will do this, so what's the point, aside from a PR show?

James M.
2 months ago

There are very good reasons not to have such a policy. Not all governments are friendly to Christians, or to religious bodies of any kind. Such a policy would be less than wise in China, or in certain Muslim countries. The Nazis used rumours of exactly this kind in their propaganda against the Church.

A Fielder
2 months ago

This policy might also backfire even in Italy, some elements of civil government are not friendly to the Catholic Church.

John Mack
2 months ago

At least in the US, the whole structure of diocesan governance needs over hauling. Make the Bishop the Chief Pastoral Officer, with a focus on pastoral care. Create the position of Chief Administrative Officer in charge of business and financial affairs. Both need to report to a board made up of lay people, make and female, and religious, male and female, and priests, with some from outside the diocese. Create a Chief Auduirtor's Offce reporting directly to the Board and not the Bishop or the Administrative Officer. The auditor would be charged with reviewing the implementation of policies such as the protection of minors, seminary behavior, and care for the poor as well as business and financial practices.

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