CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 12 January 2019

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Expectations and frustrations for summit on abuse

VATICAN (Agencies): “We want to see how we also can put on the table the question of bishops’ responsibility, so there would be greater clarity about who must do something and who checks if the things the Holy Father and the Church—the dicasteries—have ordered be done are, in effect, done,” Jesuit Father Hans Zollner, a member of the committee organising the upcoming February 21 to 24 meeting of heads of bishops’ conferences and representatives of religious orders to address the abuse and protection of minors, said on December 27.
 
CNS reported Father Zollner, president of the Centre for Child Protection at Rome’s Pontifical Gregorian University, as saying that this was in addition to the goals outlined by the pope, adding that with the help of experts, the meeting will examine “how best to protect children, to avoid these tragedies, to bring healing and restoration to the victims, and to improve the training imparted in seminaries.”
 
He said the pope’s commitment to not undervaluing or covering up any case of abuse will require “a clarification of procedures, which aren’t so clear, especially when we are talking about the co-responsibility of a bishop or a provincial or head of an Eastern Church with respect to what others bishops, provincials and superiors are doing.”
 
Father Zollner stressed that there must also be a change of attitude. “The rules, the laws as such, will not change hearts. We see this not only in Europe, but throughout the world. So, we must see how we can reinforce throughout the Church this attitude of openness and attention to the protection of minors because that is the attitude Jesus teaches us.”
 
Meanwhile, in a December 27 article from the National Catholic Reporter (NCR), former members of Pope Francis’ Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors called for a reevaluation of the group’s structure and stressed the need for the commission to reassert its independence from the Vatican’s bureaucracy. They also called for regular meetings with the pope.
 
Marie Collins, an Irish abuse survivor, said the role of the commission might merit special discussion at the February summit because the frustrations over its work exemplify how the Church has struggled for decades to address the abuse crisis. 
 
“The commission itself is sort of a microcosm of the global issue ... that work that’s being done doesn’t seem to produce results,” Collins said.
 
“We need clarity now about the commission, its purpose, its powers, its future, and exactly where it is going and what we can expect from it,” NCR reported her as saying.
 
Collins, who left the group in mid-2017 due to frustrations with Vatican officials, observed, “People put a lot of hope into it, and it has failed to live up to the hope. There should be some examination as to why.”
 
United States-based New Zealander, Krysten Winter-Green, one of six commission members not reappointed by in early 2018 after the group’s first three-year term, said she doubted the summit would have the role of the commission on its agenda, but added: “As far as I am concerned, it really should be.”
 
NCR reported her as saying, “From inception, the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors has been fraught with critical issues that have impeded progress.”
 
The article also reported that Catherine Bonnet, another of the six members not reappointed in 2018, stressed the need for the pope to begin meeting with the commission more regularly, so he can ask them directly about their proposals. 
 
“He never came to one of our meetings,” she said, referring to her three years on the group.
 
“If the commission is only writing reports to Pope Francis … it’s not enough,” NCR reported her as saying.
 
Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, the former papal spokesperson, spoke to Vatican Media saying people have great expectations for the February meeting, but they also should take time to look at all the Church has been doing to face up to the crisis and protect children.
 
“This isn’t something that began today or yesterday, but decades ago,” he said.
 
He noted that beginning with Pope Benedict XVI, the Church has strengthened its norms and procedures for dealing with cases.
 
“We must understand that the problem is very serious, very important for society and for the Church,” he told Vatican Media.
 
“There is a real renewal needed in the Church, there is a long road to travel, but, at the same time, we are not starting from zero,” he said.

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