The Vatican’s chief sexual crimes investigator says the Roman Catholic Church must “break any code of silence over sexual abuse.” Archbishop Charles Scicluna was speaking ahead of a summit on the protection of minors that will start Thursday at the Vatican. He added that the meeting, to be attended by presidents of bishops’ conferences from around the world, will focus on the themes of responsibility, accountability and transparency.
Scicluna said Pope Francis’ plans for the meeting include increasing awareness among the leadership of the Church about the prevention of abuse and the safeguarding of minors. He added participants would share experiences and discuss issues such as the accountability of bishops, their responsibilities and transparency.
Scicluna said attendees will have opportunities during the four-day meeting to hear the expectations of survivors of abuse. He said Pope Francis has in the past met with victims on a regular basis.
“He realizes that if we are talking about the wounds of people who feel betrayed on the most fundamental level, which is their dignity, their innocence, their faith, the Church needs to be about healing and not ignoring wounds or even making them worse,” he said.
But many doubt concrete results will emerge. Speaking in Rome Tuesday, Anne Barrett Doyle of the group Bishop Accountability said much is at stake with grieving and disillusioned Catholics all over the world as thousands have been sexually abused by clergy for decades. She said the meeting must produce a solution.
“Canon law has to be changed, not tweaked, not modified, but fundamentally changed so that it stops prioritizing the priesthood of ordained men over the lives of children and vulnerable adults who are sexually assaulted by them,” Barrett Doyle said.
She added that the Church is nowhere close to enacting the reforms it must make to stop the twin epidemic of sexual assault and sexual violence by priests and the almost universal cover-up of that violence when the bishops get away with it.
Phil Saviano, himself a survivor of abuse and a member of the Bishop Accountability board, said it is important to realize that this is not just an issue of homosexuality in the priesthood.
“I think that trying to dump it all together under homosexuality, A – it’s a dodge, B – it’s not psychologically accurate and it’s not going to lead to a proper solution, and it’s also an insult to all the women who have been sexually abused as children, and of whom I know many,” he said.
Saviano said one fundamental issue he will stress in his meetings with the summit’s organizing committee is the importance of releasing the names of all guilty priests and bishops, whether they have been convicted of abuse or even if there are allegations. He said that would be a huge service to public safety.