cloudyn.png
Thursday December 12th, 2019 6:48PM

Pope offers 21 proposals to fight abuse at start of summit

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis opened a landmark sex abuse prevention summit Thursday by offering senior Catholic leaders 21 proposals to punish predators and keep children safe, warning that the faithful are demanding concrete action and not just words.

The tone for the high stakes, four-day summit was set at the start, with victims from five continents — Europe, Africa, Asia, South America and North America — telling the bishops of the trauma of their abuse and the additional pain the church's indifference caused them.

"Listen to the cry of the young, who want justice," Francis told the gathering of 190 leaders of bishops conferences and religious orders.

"The holy people of God are watching and expect not just simple and obvious condemnations, but efficient and concrete measures to be established."

More than 30 years after the scandal first erupted in Ireland and Australia, and 20 years after it hit the U.S., bishops and Catholic officials in many parts of Europe, Latin America, Africa and Asia still either deny that clergy sex abuse exists in their regions or play down the problem.

Francis, the first Latin American pope, called the summit after he himself botched a well-known sex abuse cover-up case in Chile last year and the scandal reignited in the U.S.

With his own papacy and the Catholic hierarchy at large facing a credibility crisis, Francis has now vowed to chart a new course and is bringing the rest of the church leadership along with him.

The summit is meant as a tutorial for church leaders around the globe to learn the importance of preventing sex abuse in their churches, tending to victims and investigating the crimes when they occur.

Colombian Cardinal Rubén Salazar Gómez warned them that they could face not only canonical sanctions but also imprisonment for a cover-up if they failed to properly deal with allegations.

Abuse and cover-up, he said, "is the distortion of the meaning of ministry, which converts it into a means to impose force, to violate the conscience and the bodies of the weakest."

The Vatican's onetime sex crimes prosecutor delivered a step-by-step lesson Thursday on how to conduct an investigation under canon law, citing the example of Pope Benedict XVI, who turned the Vatican around on the issue two decades ago.

Calling for a conversion from a culture of silence to a "culture of disclosure," Archbishop Charles Scicluna told bishops they should cooperate with civil law enforcement investigations and announce decisions about predators to their communities once cases have been decided.

He said victims had the right to damages from the church and that bishops should consider using lay experts to help guide them during abuse investigations.

The people of God "should come to know us as friends of their safety and that of their children and youth," he said. "We will protect them at all cost. We will lay down our lives for the flocks entrusted to us."

Finally, Scicluna warned them that it was a "grave sin" to withhold information from the Vatican about candidates for bishops — a reference to the recent scandal of the now-defrocked former American cardinal, Theodore McCarrick. It was apparently an open secret in some church circles that McCarrick slept with young seminarians. He was defrocked last week by Francis after a Vatican trial found credible reports that he abused minors as well as adults.

Francis offered a path of reform going forward, handing out a 21-point set of proposals for the church to consider including some that would require changes to canon law.

He called for specific protocols to handle accusations against bishops, in yet another reference to the McCarrick scandal. He suggested protocols to govern the transfers of seminarians or priests to prevent predators from moving freely to unsuspecting communities.

One idea called for raising the minimum age for marriage to 16 while another suggested a basic handbook showing bishops how to investigate cases.

Abuse survivors have turned out in droves in Rome to demand accountability and transparency from church leaders and assert that the time of sex abuse cover-ups is over.

"The question is this: Why should the church be allowed to handle the pedophile question? The question of pedophilia is not a question of religion, it is (a question of) crime," Francesco Zanardi, head of the main victims advocacy group in Italy Rete L'Abuso, or Abuse Network, told a news conference in the Italian parliament.

Inside the summit hall Thursday, the church leaders heard five videotaped testimonies from victims about their abuse and cruel treatment from an indifferent hierarchy.

One woman from Africa told the summit that the priest who began raping her at 15 forced her to have three abortions over the following 13 years.

"He gave me everything I wanted when I accepted to have sex; otherwise he would beat me," she said.

The victims' names were not released to protect their privacy, but Chilean survivor Juan Carlos Cruz confirmed he provided a video.

"You are the physicians of the soul and yet, with rare exceptions, you have been transformed — in some cases — into murderers of the soul, into murderers of the faith," Cruz said in his testimony.

Manila Cardinal Luis Tagle choked up as he responded to such testimony, telling the bishops that the wounds they had inflicted on the faithful through their negligence and indifference recalled the wounds of Christ on the cross.

In the keynote speech, he demanded bishops and superiors no longer turn a blind eye to the harm caused by clergy abuse and cover-ups.

"Our lack of response to the suffering of victims, yes even to the point of rejecting them and covering up the scandal to protect perpetrators and the institution, has injured our people," Tagle said. The result, he said, had left a "deep wound in our relationship with those we are sent to serve."

The Vatican isn't expecting any miracles or even a final document to come out of the summit. But organizers say it marks a turning point in the way the Catholic Church has dealt with the problem, with Francis' own acknowledgment of his mistakes in handling the Chile abuse case a key point of departure.

Hours before the Vatican summit opened, activists in Poland pulled down a statue of a priest accused of sexually abusing minors. They said the stunt was to protest the failure of the Polish Catholic Church in resolving the problem of clergy sex abuse.

Video footage showed three men attaching a rope around the statue of the late Monsignor Henryk Jankowski in the northern city of Gdansk and pulling it to the ground in the dark. They then placed children's underwear in one of the statue's hands and a white lace church vestment worn by altar boys on the statue's body. Jankowski is accused of molesting boys.

The private broadcaster TVN24 reported the three men were arrested.

Jankowski, who died in 2010, rose to prominence in the 1980s through his support for the pro-democracy Solidarity movement against Poland's communist regime. World leaders including President George H.W. Bush and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher visited his church to recognize his anti-communist activity.

___

More AP coverage of clergy sex abuse at https://www.apnews.com/Sexualabusebyclergy

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP National News, AP Online National News, Top General short headlines, AP World News
© Copyright 2019 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
GOP candidate says he was assured of operative's methods
The Republican in the country's last undecided congressional election testified Thursday that a political operative now accused of ballot fraud assured him he wouldn't collect absentee ballots in violation of state law
11:51AM ( 13 minutes ago )
The Latest: Trump calls on 'Empire' actor to apologize
President Donald Trump says "Empire" actor Jussie Smollett insulted millions with his "racist and dangerous comments"
11:48AM ( 16 minutes ago )
Average US mortgage rates fell this week
US long-term mortgage rates dipped this week to the lowest average in more than a year
11:44AM ( 20 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
Oakland teachers go on strike, demand big pay raises
Teachers in Oakland, California, have gone on strike demanding smaller class sizes and a 12 percent retroactive raise
11:24AM ( 41 minutes ago )
The Latest: Police head: Smollett owes Chicago an apology
Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson says "Empire" actor Jussie Smollett owes the city an apology
11:18AM ( 46 minutes ago )
The Latest: Back-to-back suicide car bombs kill 16 in Syria
A commander with a U.S.-backed Syrian force says back-to-back suicide car bombings in a market in eastern Syria have killed at least 16 people
11:12AM ( 52 minutes ago )
AP National News
Police: 'Empire' actor faked attack to 'promote his career'
"Empire" actor Jussie Smollett "took advantage of the pain and anger of racism to promote his career" when he made a false police report about an attack in Chicago, the city's police superintendent said Thursday
10:24AM ( 1 hour ago )
The Latest: Police: Smollett sent racist letter to himself
Chicago police Superintendent Eddie Johnson says "Empire" actor Jussie Smollett "took advantage of the pain and anger of racism to promote his career"
10:21AM ( 1 hour ago )
SU hoops coach Boeheim strikes, kills pedestrian on highway
Police say Syracuse men's basketball coach Jim Boeheim struck and killed a 51-year-old man walking outside his vehicle on a highway
10:10AM ( 1 hour ago )
Top General short headlines
Fendi honors Lagerfeld and fashion's 'longest love story'
Fendi has paid understated tribute to Karl Lagerfeld, who died this week and was the Rome-based fashion house's creative director for 54 years
10:28AM ( 1 hour ago )
Chechen religious leaders re-open landmark mosque in Syria
Religious leaders of Russia's republic of Chechnya have inaugurated a re-opened landmark mosque in Syria's Homs, once the symbol of the rebellion against President Bashar Assad
10:14AM ( 1 hour ago )
Swedish teen leads Belgian students on 7th climate march
Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg is leading Belgian students who are skipping classes for the seventh Thursday in a row to march through Brussels to draw more attention to fighting climate change
9:59AM ( 2 hours ago )
AP World News
GOP candidate says he was assured of operative's methods
The Republican in the country's last undecided congressional election testified Thursday that a political operative now accused of ballot fraud assured him he wouldn't collect absentee ballots in violation of state law
11:51AM ( 13 minutes ago )
The Latest: Trump calls on 'Empire' actor to apologize
President Donald Trump says "Empire" actor Jussie Smollett insulted millions with his "racist and dangerous comments"
11:48AM ( 16 minutes ago )
Average US mortgage rates fell this week
US long-term mortgage rates dipped this week to the lowest average in more than a year
11:44AM ( 20 minutes ago )
A global look at the Catholic Church's sex abuse problem
Pope Francis' high-stakes sex abuse prevention summit calls attention to the crisis as a global problem
11:43AM ( 22 minutes ago )
Spain: Pro-separatist protesters clash with police
Protesters backing Catalonia's secession from Spain have clashed with police and blocked major roads and train tracks across the northeastern region during a strike called to protest the trial of a dozen separatist leaders
11:38AM ( 26 minutes ago )