Catholic Bishops Must Act Against Sex Abuse or Lose Credibility
By Mei Manuel, December 19, 2018 23:12 PM
On Tuesday, the Roman Catholic Church's leading experts on sexual abuse told bishops that they must take responsibility for a global clerical abuse scandal and speak to the victims or risk the Church's credibility worldwide in the process.
Pope Francis summoned the heads of at least 110 national Catholic bishops' conference and dozens of experts and leaders of religious orders to the Vatican on February 21 to 24 to discuss the sexual abuse crisis.
Victims of clergy sexual abuse hopes that the meeting will bring forward a clear policy within the church to make the bishops themselves accountable for mishandling abuse cases.
"Absent a comprehensive and communal response, not only will we fail to bring healing to victim survivors, but the very credibility of the Church to carry on the mission of Christ will be in jeopardy throughout the world," the conference's steering committee said in a letter to all participants.
"But each of us needs to own this challenge, coming together in solidarity, humility, and penitence to repair the damage done, sharing a common commitment to transparency, and holding everyone in the Church accountable," said the letter, which was released by the Vatican this week.
The committee is made up of Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago, Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Mumbai, Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta, the Vatican's leading sex abuse investigator, and Father Hans Zollner, an abuse expert based in Rome.
"The first step must be acknowledging the truth of what has happened," they said.
Each bishop was asked to visit survivors of clergy sex abuse in their area to learn first-hand the suffering that they have endured.
According to Vatican spokesman Greg Burke, the gathering would also focus on responsibility, transparency and accountability and "a concrete way of putting victims first and acknowledging the horror of what happened."
Last month, during the US bishops' annual assembly in Baltimore, the Vatican asked them to wait until the end of the February meeting before they vote on corrective measures about the issue.
The proposals to be reviewed include the creation of a telephone hotline to report accusations of case mishandling by bishops, a review board that would handle the accusations, and a bishops' code of conduct.
Victims' groups and some bishops saw the request as a setback; but, the Vatican said it wanted to see if the proposals can be applied worldwide and not just in the US.
This year, the Church found itself facing sexual abuse scandals in Chile, Germany, Australia and even in the United States.
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