Reactions to the Bishops Conference
Now that the Bishops Conference on the protection of minors is over, here are the reactions that have come in so far.
Concrete changes are coming from women, not from the hierarchy
As the anti-abuse summit of the Presidents of Bishops’ Conferences ends in Rome, the consensus emerges that the most powerful voices belonged to the survivors gathered in Rome, and the few women whose voices were heard in and around the Vatican.
But the question still remains: Will anything change?
Virginia Saldanha who has been a leading figure in the Asian Church for decades, observed: “It seems that some bishops just came to the realization at this summit meeting that sex abuse of children and vulnerable adults was a crime.”
The final remarks of Pope Francis paled in comparison with the clarity and concrete steps heard from Mexican journalist Valentina Alazraki, Nigerian Sr. Veronica Openibo, and Vatican Undersecretary Linda Ghisoni. They demonstrated not just the inexcusable nature of the crimes committed but also the practical steps that need to be taken for real change to happen.
Since his closing statement on Sunday, the Pope has been criticised for his attempt to widen the scope of attention from abuse in the Church to the global atrocities committed against children. Barbara Doris, abuse survivor and long-time advocate, prefers to focus on law enforcement and adherence of the Church to the laws of the land: “It is time for civil authorities to treat church officials as they would any other person, to investigate their crimes and hold them accountable according to the laws of the land. The excessive deference that has been shown to church officials must stop.”
In the past days, it became obvious that addressing and preventing the abuse of women religious is the next important opportunity for Catholic officials to be pro-active and show that they have truly learned from the disasters of the past months, years and decades.
Doris Wagner, abuse survivor and former religious sister stated: “I am delighted to see that some bishops seem to have understood that a fundamental change in the Church’s power structure is needed. Concrete measure have to follow now, so that we get a system of checks and balances. We need women on eye-level with men in the Church at all levels, and I hope this will be the last predominantly male summit in the Vatican.”
Many women were bewildered and hurt by the off-the-cuff comment of Pope Francis reinforcing his earlier description of feminism as “machismo with a skirt.” Women continue to ask themselves if they have the energy to keep struggling for an equal and safe Catholic Church. The summit has proven that if we want change, we cannot wait for the hierarchy to deliver it. We have to speak up boldly and continue supporting each other in our vision of equality.
The next opportunity for a visible change is six months from now at the Synod on Amazonia in October 2019 – it is time that women participate and vote on an equal footing with men.
All faithful who want to publicly show their commitment to change are invited to join the Overcoming Silence campaign and share their message of equality with our leaders. Please visit: www.overcomingsilence.com.
The current sex abuse crisis places the institutional Church in a remarkably vulnerable position. There is a growing awareness among the male clergy that lay governance is somehow key to moving forward. Not simply “lay participation”. We’ve had subordinate participation for a long time. As Cardinal Cupich puts it, the bishops need to “cede authority”. So far, we are just nibbling at the edges of this. It will require some rather deft but decisive collegiality to make this happen. Are we capable? Are we ready?
My view is that the Abuse Summit was a disappointment and a missed opportunity.
The only positive outcome was from the powerful survivors statements and the protests outside the meeting. This highlighted for the world the many failures and false denials by our Church authorities over the past 3 decades regarding the abuse scandal.
The negative outcomes are
- the complete absence of any concrete actions
- no mention of “Zero Tolerance” by Pope Francis who had previously often used this phrase
- no universal safeguarding measures for the Catholic Church
- no agreement on a definition of what constitutes sexual abuse of a minor
- no process of accountability for bishops
In 2012 there was a similar high profile Summit in the Vatican “Towards Healing and Renewal” which produced a detailed report translated into many languages. But it delivered no concrete change.
My fear is that this 2019 Abuse Summit is going the same way as the 2012 Summit.
A sign of confirmation was that neither Archbishop Scicluna nor Fr Zollner was able to confirm whether any of the clerics who had abused the survivors who spoke at the Abuse Summit were still in ministry.
The abuse crisis cannot be sorted out by men who at their core want to protect themselves and their power. On the 23rd much praise was showered on the three women who addressed the summit meeting. The bishops actually admitting that women have something significant to contribute to the Church. Yet, they continue to offer mere words to patroness the women nothing concrete to change. As you mentioned in the article, when a woman dares to expose them she is just dispensed wWhat
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It is up to the Laity. What can we do?
Let us begin to explore what we can now do to take up the cause that the bishops failed to adequately address. Feel free to send in your suggestions to us at info@CatholicChurchReform.com. More will be following on this as suggestions come together.
Your donations are most appreciated
Grateful to all for your donations and contributions of ideas. It is beyond time that we, the lay Faithful, assume full responsibility for our Church.