Will the Vatican’s sexual abuse summit make a difference?

Members of the organization "Laity of Osorno" take part in a Mass celebrated by special Vatican envoys, Archbishop Charles Scicluna and Father Jordi Bertomeu Farnos, in Cathedral of St. Matthew in Osorno, Chile, June 17. The Vatican envoys, who investigated clerical sexual abuse in Chile, were on a mission to promote healing. (CNS photo/Fernando Lavoz, Reuters)

This week on “Inside the Vatican,” Gerry and I take a look at the newly announced committee that will plan the Vatican’s upcoming, high-stakes summit on sexual abuse. One committee member, Cardinal Oswald Gracias of India, told Crux in October that the meeting “will be successful, or it will be a disaster for the Church.”


So, can it succeed in creating lasting change?

  In this week’s episode, we try to answer that question by looking at the plans for the meeting. It will have a structure similar to the last synod, with listening sessions, work in language groups and involvement from lay people and religious. In addition, bishops will listen to speeches by survivors of sexual abuse and participate in a penitential liturgy with them. The goal, committee member Archbishop Charles Scicluna told Gerry, is to get the bishops “on the same page” with Pope Francis about sexual abuse. The real change, we conclude, will depend on how the bishops decide to follow through after the summit ends.


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sheila gray
8 months 3 weeks ago

It could... make a difference. But not without meaningful “dialogue” with survivors first. I believe the survivor community, whatever that is, must somehow come together in January to produce some kind of document or statement or list of Ideas, or Recommendations, etc. about what we need, about what we think is important for our healing, which includes our suffering families... I will throw out a few of my own personal suggestions here. These have in no way really been polished or categorized, they’re just welling up from my hopeful soul, still breathing... 1) Get All Of It Out Now. The truth about many, many allegations against nuns must be revealed. This is not known yet by the Laity. It is the next shoe to drop. If a new major “Secret” comes out after the February Synod, it will all be over but the sound of shoes scraping on all the floors to all the doors in all the Catholic Churches of the world. 2) Do It Right This Time... Imagine for a moment that the Crisis never happened. By that, I mean, when allegations started flowing in from all over the United States in the 1970’s, 80’s, 90’s, everyone did the Right Thing (immediate outrage, and action to protect kids FIRST). The Hierarchy needs to walk out of the Synod and do that. Just act like real Fathers. Just do what real fathers would do. I believe The Prize is just over the next high ridge of peaks blocking our way forward. Love is always the answer. If the February Synod is a meeting of hearts and souls, instead of bankers and attorneys and clerics, it will succeed. I began to heal from clergy abuse the day I started praying again after 49 years. That was Xmas morning, 2017. Happy Holidays.

J Cosgrove
8 months 3 weeks ago

No. It will probably not get at the underlying problem.

Phillip Stone
8 months 3 weeks ago

It is just another diversion.
For reasons particular to the post-WW2, rich first world cultures such as the pagan propagation of the Age of Aquarius, the wide distribution and experimentation with mind-altering drugs and mushrooms and the contraceptive Pill, the so-called sexual liberation movement proposed and supported by pop-psychology and the abandonment of infant baptism, a generation of people fell into grave error and practised an orgy of narcissistic self-indulgence and perversion which lasted a generation - from the 1960s to the 1990s.
Prophetic revelation and protest and complaint was ignored, stifled or punished. In the UK, think Lord Longford and Mary Whitehouse and I do not know who cried in the wilderness in the USA.

Now that the epidemic described above has passed, we are looking at the damage caused. The devil has had his way with a whole generation and is tempting the younger generations with other alluring evils.

The perversion of power and hierarchy within the institutions of mankind which includes religious denominations as well as parliamentary and bureaucratic and voluntary group officials is the elephant in the room.
In Australia, boy-scout leaders and sports-coaches and charitable lay institutions such as the St Vincent de Paul Society and Legacy harboured sex offenders behaving in exactly the same way as the abusive Catholic presbyters and their bishops.

Christians have only just managed to have slavery looked upon as a wrong and that was progress.
There are still very large numbers of slaves alive and living in societies spread throughout the world so it was only a step in the right direction, not a solution.

In like manner, if it is the plan of the Holy Spirit to teach us more about the wrong ways and the right way for hierarchy and delegated power and responsibility to be exercised then it makes sense that this will first be done amongst Christians.

Abuse of power and authority is the problem for today, not sexual abuse.
Spiritual directors, doctors and psychologists are at this very minute offering and providing counselling and healing and reconciliation and rehabilitation for each, all and every person who has been hurt or harmed by abuse who asks. Long way to go towards perfection, expect errors and diversions up blind alleys along the way but many are experienced and proficient in this by now and the leaven of it amongst Christians is raising the secular dough.

Power - human power: stolen, granted, delegated, endowed, distributed, exercised and monitored - is it time for the first multi-national corporation, the Roman Catholic Church, to be fashioned into a model for the world to admire and follow?

Jeffrey More
8 months 3 weeks ago

I think it highly unlikely that the upcoming summit will accomplish anything of lasting value. All one has to do is read the interview with Abp. Scicluna published in this magazine a couple of days ago in order to be thrown into mild despair. Abp. Scicluna states that the summit is really too short to accomplish anything of real significance; he states, in substance, that the purpose of the summit is to get the bishops and other invited leaders of the institutional Church "on the same page" as the Pope (whatever that page might be); he implies that real progress will only be made on the local level in the future (progress the Vatican has already quashed in the United States), and states he "hopes" enthusiasm for dealing with the problems survives from the summit until whatever future time local summits eventually take place; and admits that real, meaningful change and reform may need changes in canon law, which could take a long time to be effected. Abp. Scicluna conveys the impression that the Vatican does not expect much from this summit. Consider the following quote:
"Archbishop Scicluna hopes 'that the spirit of this meeting will be positive and proactive, and will also help to give a sign of hope to the bishops themselves, to the whole church, to the People of God, and, importantly to leadership at all levels in the church.'"

One gets the impression that this meeting is not being called to actually deal with a problem that threatens as great a rupture in the Church as was caused by the Reformation, but rather is being called as a kind of pep talk for the hierarchy and as a smokescreen designed to make it appear that action is being taken when in reality the Vatican is doing all it can to put the brakes on. Condider the sentence just quoted..Abp. Scicluna "hopes" that the spirit of the meeting will be positive, a mealy-mouthed sentiment if ever there was one. But more oddly, he "hopes" that the "spirit of the meeting" (whatever the hell that means) will "give a sign of hope" (whatever the hell THAT means) to four classes of people: (a) THE BISHOPS THEMSELVES [!], (b) the "whole Church" (which could mean us, but probably means instead the institutional body, I.e. The clergy), (c) the People of God (ah, US!), and (d) "leadership at all levels in the Church". Think about this for a second. Abp Scicluna hopes that the meeting will create a sense of hope among the whited sepulchres who run the Church! Whether he intended to or not, Abp. Scicluna has given the impression that the meeting is INTENDED to be a clusterf**ck . Indeed, what we are about to see in February could well be one of the most consequential (and not in the positive sense of that word) exercises in clericalism in the recent history of the Church.

Phillip Stone
8 months 3 weeks ago

Yes, hard to fault your analysis.
My Hope is in the promise that the gates of Hell will not prevail ...

I recall how just before the latest Vatican Council the hard-liners drafted document after document according to their wishes and wills and presented them to the participants at the beginning as the FINAL documents of their deliberations before the participants had met even once officially.
It did not work, Ratzinger and Wojtyla and Suenens and Rahner and others prophetically exposed the absurdity of doing it that way and eventually made it a REAL council by casting aside all those documents and starting from first principles and living experience. They helped to prevent the barque of Peter running aground on the rocks of heresy and apostasy. (To be precise: - 21st ecumenical council of the Roman Catholic Church (1962–65))

arthur mccaffrey
8 months 3 weeks ago

If Francis is using the recent Synod on Youth as a model, then nothing will happen except talk,talk, talk--with important voices missing--e.g. survivors and women. We do not need a "global solution", we need local solutions that involve the use of local law enforcement authorities to arrest and try all those credibly accused priests and bishops of abuse or collusion. Francis, once again, is kicking the can down the street. Too bad the US Conference of Bishops allowed the Vatican to overrule their local proposals. Could we have a really dramatic local summit in USA NOW, where people are named and denounced without having to wait for February? Why do we need to ask the Offenders' permission?

sheila gray
8 months 3 weeks ago

I agree that real change must happen at the Diocesan level. I also agree that any solutions must include Survivors and women. It will be very difficult to achieve. In my opinion, Church Leaders must first recognize the peril in which they find themselves, and The Church, as well. Relevance cannot be faked, or assumed. This Synod is a last chance, not a first chance. I truly fear that they do not realize this fact, as far as Survivors are concerned. It’s now or never. If they do not get something right soon...??? I honestly believe that many in the Hierarchy are just waiting for Survivors still alive to die. Then they won’t have to change in any way at all, and “The Show” will go on forever.

lisa connolley
8 months 3 weeks ago

I appreciate that there is a global meeting on the topic, as this is a human condition/sin based problem - too often this issue has been solved "in house." I also appreciate that many in the global church are asking for women's voices in this subject. May there be hope for grace to be the primary mover in this painful topic, a grace that may be painful, but is necessary.

Mike Macrie
8 months 3 weeks ago

I have lost complete Faith in the American Conference of Bishops as a group. They need to reduce membership of Bishops who belong to the Conference and add Women to replace them with voting rights. How’s that for a Starter. This should also be done with the Cardinals who put too much self importance on their own status in the hierarchy of the Church. It’s time to realize like every other governing institution today that men don’t have all the answers to solve problems.

Mark M
8 months 3 weeks ago

McCarrick is still an archbishop, today, will remain so before the next meeting and will remain archbishop after the meeting and will live comfortably until he dies. No charges, no canonical trial, no nada.
Why? He knows too much. He knows everything. If he flips to a RICO prosecutor or to a state A/G, the whole pack of priestly frauds are toast.
Which includes lots of Jesuits.
So, no. This stupid meeting will produce nothing. Bet on it.

sheila gray
8 months 3 weeks ago

Every part of The Church has been compromised. We, the People, we the ones who still care about the possibility of “Coming back” are The Church, not the Hierarchy. We can change The Church. All we need to do is apply what we’ve all been taught from the very beginning - Faith, Hope, and Love...

Molly Roach
8 months 3 weeks ago

Seems unlikely that anything coming from the Vatican will change this situation but here on our shores, RICO is coming.

Larry Mulligan
8 months 3 weeks ago

The headline question is one of power - the failed leaders who have it in the institutional church will meet to come up with a plan on how to retain it. The rest of us, The People of God, must let them know, by all means possible, that we must be included.

Michael Barberi
8 months 3 weeks ago

In calling for the February meeting of all the heads of Conferences of Bishops, Pope Francis makes clear that he believes in two things:

> The clergy sexual abuse crisis is not limited to one Country or the West, and
> He wants a universal solution and not one limited to the approach of one country or one Conference of Bishops.

Will the sexual abuse summit make a difference? That will depend on four things:

1. If the investigative committee or agency to be formed to thoroughly investigate sexual abuse allegations. coverup or the gross negligence of an ecclesial office (a bishop, cardinal or pope) will be "lay-lead". If not, this summit will not make a difference. This investigation must include priests, bishops, cardinals and popes. In other words, in the U.S. all the allegations in the PA Grand Jury Report, the McCarrick Scandal and the Vigano letter.

2. If all the bishops and cardinals who are found to be guilty of sexual abuse or coverup by an independent lay-lead investigative committee are asked to resign their office/position or be defrocked. If not, this summit will not make a difference.

3. If the McCarrick scandal is thoroughly investigated to determine why and how Pope JP II promoted him to Cardinal when US Bishops and Cardinals knew about his sexual abuse as well and the Apostolic Nuncio. If not, then this summit will not make a difference.

4. If the Church institutes significant sexual abuse allegation reporting procedures, effective and efficient investigative processes, and juridical reforms that will eliminate, as much as reasonably possible, the root causes of sexual abuse and coverup including clericalism. If not, then this summit will not make a difference.

Crystal Watson
8 months 2 weeks ago

No, I don't think it will help, because the pope refuses to address the actual causes of the sex abuse of children and sexual activity with adults by priests.


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