Today, the Vatican began an extra-ordinary four-day meeting to address the abuse crisis that is once again rocking the Church. It is the first meeting of its kind and the major presentations are being live streamed for the world to watch.
In his opening remarks, Pope Francis stressed the need for a frank discussion on “to confront this evil afflicting the Church and humanity.” He also stressed that “[t]he holy People of God looks to us, and expects from us not simple and predictable condemnations, but concrete and effective measures to be undertaken. We need to be concrete.”
The meeting was called following the release of a report by the Pennsylvania Attorney General on the history of abuse by clergy in that state and the revelation that Theodore McCarrick, a former cardinal, had credible accusations of abuse against him even while rising through Church hierarchy for several decades, ultimately being named Archbishop of Washington, DC.
In the preparation for the meeting, the Vatican explained that the Pope wants “the bishops [to] clearly understand what they must do…Firstly, he wants them to become aware of the tragedy, of the suffering of the victims.
“Secondly, he wants them to know what they need to do: what the procedures are, what tasks need to be accomplished at various levels (diocesan bishop, archdiocesan bishop, episcopal conference, Vatican dicasteries).”
While the Pope called for concrete action, Cardinal Luis Tagle, Archbishop of Manila, outlined for participants just what is at stake:
Brothers and sisters, this is what is at stake at this moment of crisis brought about by the abuse of children and our poor handling of these crimes. Our people need us to draw close to their wounds and acknowledge our faults if we are to give authentic and credible witness to our faith in the Resurrection. This means that each of us and our brothers and sisters at home must take personal responsibility for bringing healing to this wound in the Body of Christ and make the commitment to do everything in our power and capacity to see that children are safe, are cared for in our communities
Participants include the presidents of all the national Bishop conferences, superiors of men and women religious, and other Church officials. They will hear the story of survivors during the meeting as they explore the themes of responsibility, accountability and transparency.
As part of that commitment to transparency, the Vatican is streaming all the major speeches during the meeting, has provided the program and background material and contact information for various Vatican departments responsible for different aspect. All that material is available at a special website.
The Bishops of the United States, represented by Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, had planned to address the accountability aspect of the crisis last November at their regular meeting. The Vatican, however, asked them to wait for the results of this meeting before acting.