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Concerted effort needed to uproot sexual abuse

The Vatican summit addressing The Protection of Minors in the Church brought together the presidents of bishops’ conferences, the heads of the Eastern Catholic Churches, superiors of men’s and women’s religious orders and Roman Curia officials. They heard harrowing testimony from victims and sought to hammer out pastoral directions to prevent sexual abuse of children in the Church by taking responsibility, establishing reporting mechanisms and ensuring transparency.
 
No single community can remain unscathed by this issue because sexual abuse lurks everywhere.
 
In Hong Kong, the Legislative Council has cited data from the Social Welfare Department, which found that out of 947 newly-reported child abuse cases in 2017, 315 were related to sexual abuse.
 
The sexual abuse of children inflicts indelible scars, but also damages the entire family, and the trust between the child and the Church. Therefore, while the Church is improving how it handles this most serious of issues, it must also strengthen pastoral care and pro-actively change the culture that allows this heinous behaviour to flourish.
 
Sexual abuse in countries like the United States of America, Canada, Australia and Ireland has already raised great alarm. Great harm has be inflicted and suffered. The wounds stem from human weaknesses as well as from structural sin. Pope Francis himself has pointed out that part of the problem comes from clericalism within the Church hierarchy.
 
In 2001, Pope St. John Paul II apologised to the victims of sexual abuse in the Church, expressing its determination deal with the problem. Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis, have sped up the pace of reform. 
 
Last year, Pope Francis wrote a letter to the People of God, urging the faithful to fast, pray and do penance, to awaken the conscience and arouse solidarity. He pointed to the root of the problem and exhorted the nurturing of a culture of care towards minors that says “never again” to every form of abuse. The pope also forcefully pointed out the influence clericalism, abuse of power and trampling of conscience, has on sexual abuse—all things which the Church should reject.
 
Locally, abuse cases have happened. In response, the diocese established the Working Committee for Handling Complaints of Sexual Abuse of Minors in Diocesan Organisations. In 2009, the Handling Code was issued, which lists dos and don’ts for pastoral workers when encountering minors. Investigators and support workers of the committee also follow up the work and care for the victims.
 
In addition, the Church needs to also address sexual harassment. Training on the prevention and handling of sexual harassment was organised for the clergy and faithful at the end 2018 and for early this March. Presently, the diocese is formulating Guidelines on the Prevention of Sexual Harassment in the Church.
 
The approach that the Church community takes can be a firewall. However, if there is no love and if sex education does not promote appropriate social behaviours based on respect from the heart, then all external measures will merely a matter of form. 
 
In addition, the tendency of Chinese society to treat sex as taboo, indirectly silences the victims and perpetuates the culture of cover-up. If it is necessary for the local Church to respond to The Protection of Minors in the Church, cultural shortcomings must be targeted and drastic changes made. Only then can the structural evil be dealt with.
 
As Pope Francis said in a February 19 tweet, “In the darkest moments of our history, the Lord draws near, opens paths, lifts up discouraged faith, anoints wounded hope, and awakens sleeping charity.” SE