Vatican emphasizes transparency and accountability at upcoming sex abuse summit

Archbishop Charles J. Scicluna of Malta and Cardinal Blase J. Cupich of Chicago, members of the organizing committee for the Feb. 21-24 Vatican meeting on the protection of minors in the church, attend a press conference to preview the meeting at the Vatican Feb. 18, 2019. Also pictured is Alessandro Gisotti, interim Vatican spokesman. (CNS photo/Paul Haring) 

In a significant development to ensure as much transparency as possible at the first-ever summit on the protection of minors in the church (Feb. 21-24), the Vatican will live-stream all the keynote speeches and the interventions of Pope Francis, as well as the penitential service and the closing Mass. All this can be followed in the United States, Canada and other countries worldwide.

Furthermore, the Vatican has also opened a special website that is accessible to the public. It provides substantial information not only on the conference, but also on the church’s struggle to deal with the abuse of minors by members of the clergy since the mid-1980s. The website also provides a special press kit for journalists. The Vatican has also released the full list of participants at the summit.

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All this news, and much more, was provided at a press conference in the Vatican on Feb. 18, the likes of which has not been seen since the 2013 conclave that elected Pope Francis. The conference was chaired by Alessandro Gisotti, the interim press officer, who said the summit was called to address the abuse of minors by clergy and paid special tribute to the victims for their courage.

Cardinal Blase Cupich, one of the three members of the preparatory committee for the summit established by Pope Francis, also praised “the courage of the victims” that has given rise to this summit, and said “it is very important for all of us to bear in our hearts the suffering of the victims, which they will bear for their lives.” He recalled that Pope Francis had asked the summit to focus on minors “because they are the ones without defense” and “to give a voice to the voiceless.” He acknowledged that there are other challenges too that would not be the focus of this summit, alluding to the abuse of vulnerable adults and of women religious and other women by clergy, but said that the work of the summit on responsibility, accountability and transparency would also contribute to addressing those issues. He recalled that Pope Francis had asked participants to meet with victims-survivors of abuse before the summit, and said the website will provide some interviews with bishops who share their experience of this.

Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta, the Vatican’s most authoritative figure in combating abuse, recalled that, on the return flight from Panama, Pope Francis said this summit aimed to foster awareness throughout the church on the issue of abuse and “our responsibility” as shepherds, to enable bishops to know what needs to be done when faced with abuse and to pray. He told the press that the summit will focus on the “responsibility” of bishops and heads of religious orders, on “accountability” and on “transparency,” and said “all three are important aspects of good government, good stewardship, and essential to making the church the safe place it should be for minors.”

The Maltese archbishop went out of his way to “thank” the media not only for their interest in the summit, but also for their investigative work in bringing this topic to the light of day, and for having “helped the church come to an awareness of all this.”

Pope Francis said this summit aimed to foster awareness throughout the church on the issue of abuse and “our responsibility” as shepherds.

The next speaker, Federico Lombardi S.J., the former director of the Holy See Press Office whom Pope Francis asked to serve as the summit’s moderator, told the press there will be some 190 participants at the four-day event, including the presidents of 114 bishops’ conferences, the heads of the Eastern rite Catholic Churches and of the main Roman Curia offices, 12 superiors of men’s religious orders and 10 superiors of women’s religious orders, and two lay women, as well as men and women survivors (whose names were not disclosed). Valentina Alazraki, a Mexican journalist, will also be one of the speakers at the conference.

Pope Francis will give a brief introduction on the first day, will be present throughout the summit and will give a concluding talk after Mass on Sunday morning, Feb. 24. Father Lombardi said the penitential service and Mass will be held in the Apostolic Palace, next to the Sistine Chapel.

The next speaker was Hans Zollner, a German Jesuit who has played a crucial role as coordinator of the preparatory committee established by Pope Francis. He recalled that a questionnaire was sent to the presidents of the bishops conferences (the text is on the website) and 89 percent had already responded; the responses are now being analyzed and will be made public in due course.

"We have to break away from the code of silence; we must break away from any complicity to deny; only the truth will make us free.”

The last speaker was Bernadette Reis, F.S.P., the assistant to the interim director of the press office. She explained the contents of the press kit that she helped to develop to facilitate the work of journalists. It contains essential historical and current information on this whole subject of the church’s response to the abuse crisis.

After the presentation of the summit, the panel spent 55 minutes answering questions from journalists on a wide range of issues. When asked if “the code of silence” that involves the covering up of abuse still exists, or has a place in the church today, Archbishop Scicluna said: “Silence is a ‘no go’ in the church today....We have to break away from the code of silence; we must break away from any complicity to deny; only the truth will make us free.”

Questioned about the effectiveness of the Catholic Church’s efforts to combat and prevent abuse by members of the clergy, Cardinal Cupich said that these efforts are in fact working in the U.S. church, adding that these efforts do not always make headlines because of the wave of historical cases that make the news. He said this is clearly shown by the fact that there have been only five cases of abuse by clergy reported over each of the past five years, with the exception of 2017, when there were six cases (four of those six were committed by one priest.) And while even one case is one too many, this shows that the safeguarding efforts are working.

While some commentators predicted that the short time for the preparation of the conference would militate against its good organization, today’s press conference suggests otherwise. Judging by what was said and presented today, the summit appears to be well planned and organized, including planning for the media.

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Lisa M
1 month ago

Let us pray for success.

mary ann Steppke
1 month ago

the urgency to end this abuse is placing great responsibility on our leaders to motivate all to come to the table with grace and truth and courage to change this sin of the church which has been embedded in its culture for centuries. Let us cry out to the Lord for mercy and place this as our number 1 priority .

mary ann Steppke
1 month ago

the urgency to end this abuse is placing great responsibility on our leaders to motivate all to come to the table with grace and truth and courage to change this sin of the church which has been embedded in its culture for centuries. Let us cry out to the Lord for mercy and place this as our number 1 priority .

J. Calpezzo
1 month ago

Roger Mahony

Jim Spangler
1 month ago

How can one expect anything positive to come from this meeting, when the central person in this photo is guilty of cover ups. He is looking for bigger promotions, like Washington D.C. to replace Worle. When Cupich was the Bishop of the Diocese of Spokane he knew that the Jesuits were harboring a house full of sex abuse priests living in a house together on the campus of Gonzaga University. What did he do about it? Nothing! They were free to roam or do whatever they saw fit. There is a failure on the Vatican and its Curia to not address HOMOSEXLUALITY! It is the largest elephant in the room. It has taken over the Vatican, and the hierarchy! Francis continues to appoint homosexuals around him. His appointment of Cardinal Farrell to be the new Camerlengo is the latest example. Farrell was a roommate of McCarrick's for six years and says that he had no idea that McCarrick was a sex predator. It is a waste of money and time to think that there will be anything concrete come from this meeting when the agenda has already been set in iron by diviates themselves. Perhaps an earthquake on the dome will solve the issues. Homosexuality has no place within the Church, especially if they are active homosexuals. You cannot serve two masters. Commandment SIX say thou shalt not commit adultery. That means men with men and women with women. Men and women with other women and men.

arthur mccaffrey
1 month ago

Scicluna says:" to enable bishops to know what needs to be done when
faced with abuse and to pray. "---you mean there are still bishops who do not know what to do? Then just like first year in college, they need remedial classes before they can mingle with the big boys who already know and are doing it!! If there really are different levels and stages of ignorance among this group, then sitting in a hall listening to speeches won't change a damn thing. You will need small breakout workshops to bring everybody up to speed, then you meet in general assembly to pass resolutions to address concrete hard problems.
As for the "code of secrecy", I hope Kieran Tapsell is an observer who can ask the Pope if he is going to abolish the vow of silence and secrecy that all prelates take under the Canon Law "Crimen Solicitationes" oath--the Pope can do it with a stroke of a pen, thus freeing Bishops and Cardinals to do the right thing. I wonder what odds the bookies are giving for anything meaningful to come out of this Summit?

Lisa M
1 month ago

Jim/Arthur- I don't think you are being fair. We are all angry, and we all want change, but to rule out the possibility of success, and to determine the knowledge and motives of individuals is wrong. It seems to me there is a big anti Francis group that is hoping this summit fails, or at least appears to fail, even at the expense of the victims. The reality is, the cover ups alone suggest we have bishops who clearly lack basic empathy towards others, which has led to other victims being abused. THEY do need to understand their role in this, and how to move forward. The protection of minors is the priority now, not homosexuality.
The fact that the percentage of priests that are homosexual appears to be much higher than the general public is of concern, and needs to be addressed to determine why this is the case . We first need to know what percentage of priests are sexually active, heterosexual or homosexual, and how is this being dealt with, but NOT at this summit. This is likely to follow.
Cardinal Farrell, who is one of the ones the 'orthodox, "true" Catholics like to attack, should not be slandered and be found guilty by association, unless, of course, he himself has said he knew about McCarrick, but he has denied this, and there is no reason not to believe him, at least as of now.

As far as Pope Francis, he is the Vicar of Christ, and deserves our support and prayers in this, not the constant questioning and motive determining evaluations we are seeing on a regular basis.

https://www.lastampa.it/2019/02/18/vaticaninsider/pope-francis-and-papa…

arthur mccaffrey
1 month ago

Lisa--let me respond to some of your comments. First off, I am not part of a "big anti-Francis group", and speak only for
myself as a very well informed observer who has written extensively about child abuse. I am not angry, just disgusted.
Second, if we do in fact have "bishops who clearly lack basic empathy towards others.....", then they either need to be dismissed as unfit for the job, or go into therapy--a big international conference is not the place for therapy sessions for the disabled. Third, I made no mention of homosexuality. Four, the allegation that Francis is the Vicar of Christ makes him more susceptible to criticism, not less. I critique Francis as the CEO of a very large multi-national corporation which is corrupt and immoral in its practices. Ergo, it needs to be shut down, disbanded or reorganised. The theories and theologies may continue to exist, but their re- implementation needs a different kind of re-incarnation. A medieval monarchy is no longer viable in the 21st century.

Tim O'Leary
1 month ago

McCaffrey - Lisa wants the abuse to end so the Church can get back to its mission of evangelizing and saving the world. You want the Church to go away as you doubt whether they solve the abuse crisis or not. In Gibson's Passion movie's opening scene in the Garden, Satan, in androgynous form (so fitting for today's mentality) tempts Jesus, saying "Do you really believe one man can carry this burden? ...saving their souls is too costly;" You may doubt that the devil exists, but if she does exist, she would think your goals align well with hers.

Jim Spangler
1 month ago

Lisa, unfortunately you are living in a dream world that all is well. Unfortunately the hierarchy, Farrell, Cupich, Wohre, plus more were crony appointments by McCarrick, which leads one to wonder what they knew and what politics that they could bring to the table. Perhaps you have not read about the book being released this week that says 80% of the Priests of the Vatican are active homosexuals. Perhaps if you search the archives you will find that the police raided a homosexual cocaine party going on in one of the Vatican apartments. Present was Cardinal CoCOpomoro who they allowed to leave so they did not arrest him. Many Priests and other Curia members were involved naked, doing sexual acts, and high on cocaine. Th Pope does not deserve our support and prayers even as Vicar of Christ when he is weakening traditional teachings of the Church for over 2000 years. He seems to scattering and changing the teachings of the Church. He sold the Chinese Church out, and now he say all religions are equal, so everyone 's religion is equal to everyone else's religion. I think it is time that Frances resign and and a completed shake up of the church, its cannons and its authority!

arthur mccaffrey
1 month ago

Kieran Tapsell has asked me to update my reference to Crimen Solicitationes as the basis for the oath of secrecy,
as follows: “Crimen Sollicitationis was repealed by the 1983 Code of Canon Law, and is no longer in force (I have dealt with this at p.110 of [my book] Potiphar’s Wife). The current requirement to observe the pontifical secret under Secreta Continere 1974 is required by Art 30 of the norms under Sacramentorum Sanctitatis Tutela of 2010. The only modification to that is the requirement in 2002 for the United States and 2010 for the rest of the world to obey civil reporting laws where they exist. On that point, Commonweal is about to publish a letter to the editor of mine dealing with the criticism of Peter Steinfels of the Pennsylvania Grand Jury……….”. Tapsell still stands by his claim made in the National Catholic Reporter on June 6, 2018=
""The ball is in Francis' court if he wants to achieve real cultural change, and it must start with a stroke of his pen abolishing the pontifical secret over child sexual abuse." My apologies for not being as well versed in canon law as Kieran.

david_roccosalva@yahoo.com
1 month ago

"Vatican emphasizes transparency ..." There is a NYT article, "The Vatican’s Secret Rules for Priests Who Have Children" (https://nyti.ms/2Xbc7NF). Transparency and "secret rules" are not compatible. Maybe this time will be different. Doubtful, but maybe.

Arthur Sullivan
1 month ago

Today's New York Times has an article on Vatican guidelines for priests with children! When will the church realize that it's bizarre sex-related policies are insane. Start by ordaining women, and I promise everything else will fall into place.

Tim O'Leary
1 month ago

Arthur - what is the point of having a priesthood if their sacraments don't work? It is infallible teaching that only men can be priests and consecrate the Eucharist. So, if some bishop attempted to ordain a woman, it would be a forgery. She could try to celebrate Mass but the bread and wine would still be bread and wine at the end of the event, just like in the protestant churches. Everybody going to that Mass might be praying their hearts out (as they do in protestant churches), but they would still be just eating bread and wine. When it comes to getting the bread of life, even a bad priest is better than a fake priestess. Even a rare priest is better than a thousand forgeries.

Acacia Hary
1 month ago

The article contains lots of useful information. I would love to read your article.Temple run

ljscole@gmail.com
1 month ago

Right! Do you really think rank and file Catholics believe this.

Kevin Murphy
1 month ago

The coverup continues, except this one will be grander and with better food.

Kevin Murphy
1 month ago

The coverup continues, except this one will be grander and with better food.

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