CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 15 September 2018

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Clear response to abuse crisis is urgently needed cardinal says

VATICAN (CNS): “Recent events in the Church have us all focused on the urgent need for a clear response on the part of the Church for the sexual abuse of minors” and vulnerable adults, said Sean Cardinal O’Malley, president of the Vatican’s Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors on September 9.
 
“Bringing the voice of survivors to leadership of the Church is crucial if people are going to have an understanding of how important it is for the Church to respond quickly and correctly anytime a situation of abuse may arise,” he said at the end of the papal commission’s plenary assembly in Rome held from September 7 to 9.
 
He said that in cases of abuse “if the Church is unable to respond wholeheartedly and make this a priority, all of our other activities of evangelisation, works of mercy, education are all going to suffer. This must be the priority that we concentrate on right now.”
 
The cardinal explained that the pontifical commission is an advisory body set up to make recommendations to the pope and to develop and offer guidelines, best practices and formation to Church leaders throughout the world, including bishops’ conferences, religious orders and offices in the Roman Curia.
 
He stressed that the commission is not an investigative body and does not deal with past abuses or current allegations, but its expert-members try, through education, leadership training and advocacy, to “change the future so that it will not be a repeat of the sad history” the Church has experienced.
 
“There are other dicasteries of the Holy See that have the responsibility for dealing with the cases and dealing with individual circumstances of abuse or negligence on the part of authority, and our commission cannot be held accountable for their activities,” Cardinal O’Malley said.
 
Most clerical sexual abuse allegations are handled through the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
 
Commission members, however, have spoken with officials at various Vatican offices, including the doctrinal congregation. For those meetings, Cardinal O’Malley said he always brings a survivor with him “to talk to them about the Church’s mission of safeguarding, and I think those (moments) have been very successful.”
 
Safeguarding training for bishops, priests and religious around the world is meant to help them become “aware of the seriousness” of abuse and negligence, “to be equipped to be able to respond” and to be able “to put the safeguarding of children and the pastoral care of victims as their priority,” the cardinal said.
 
He explained that a critical part of building awareness has been making the voice of survivors heard directly by leadership. Every year when new bishops attend a course in Rome, the commission also addresses the group.
 
Cardinal O’Malley said he usually invites former commission member, Marie Collins—a survivor of Irish clerical sex abuse—to speak to the new bishops “so that they can hear directly from someone who has experienced this horror in their own life, to explain to the them the consequences and repercussions for the individual, their family and the whole community.”
 
Even though Collins was unable to attend this year, she made “a wonderful video” that the cardinal shared with the approximately 200 bishops appointed in the past year, he said.
 
Year after year, the cardinal said, “so many bishops have come up to me and told me that Marie Collins’ testimony was the most important conference that they had heard during their entire week of conferences for the new bishops.” 
 
That is why, he said, it is so crucial for the voices of survivors to be heard by leaders if they are ever to understand the importance of responding quickly and appropriately.
 
Cardinal O’Malley also mentioned a number of new initiatives and resources the commission has been working on, such as special auditing instruments for bishops’ conferences to measure the implementation and compliance of safeguarding policies as well as the idea of setting up survivor advisory panels in different countries to advise local bishops and the papal commission.

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