Abuse conference in the Vatican: on the cross
The first day of the Vatican abuse debate shows that some of the church leaders are trying to change things. What is missing is a power word from the top.
In the early morning, a visibly tired Pope turned to the well over a hundred ecclesiastical dignitaries who came to Rome to discuss the issue of abuse. "The people of God look upon us and expect concrete and effective measures," said Francis. "Let's hear the cry of the little ones who demand justice."
Then he presented a 21-point paper on the fight against child sexual abuse. Much of this has already been put into practice in the dioceses and the Pontifical Child Protection Center, such as the more rigorous aptitude test of seminarians.
The proposal for concrete action was closest to the proposal to provide a manual for clerics, which lists questions and answers concerning the issue of abuse. "There are few experts in the dioceses, so it is important to give the bishops clear answers to their questions," said the Maltese Archbishop Charles Scicluna.
Code of conduct for all in the dioceses
In addition, a code of conduct for all clergy, the service staff and volunteers in the dioceses will be formulated - on any criminal record should be respected. A clear rejection gives the document the publication of names of suspected priests: For them, the presumption of innocence must apply. Priests and bishops convicted of abuse should be dismissed from the service.
However, there is also much to be had in the near future: there is talk of worldwide norms, measures and protocols, of providing the victims with the "necessary support for complete recovery". Of standards in the monetary compensation of victims not a word.
"This document has nothing to do with the alleged zero tolerance of the Vatican for abuse," said Peter Isley of the international Affected Network "Ending Clergy Abuse". "The Congregation for the Doctrine has criminal evidence in thousands of cases - but it does not pull that information out." It is the church's duty to ensure that "if a priest rapes a child on Monday morning, he is already in detention this afternoon".
With some benevolence, the present day's vision reveals the vision of a synodal, collegial, and transparent church in which bishops listen to external experts and pass on suspected cases of abuse to secular jurisdiction. Too bad that everything that has been read and heard so far has no binding effect.
And all this with a great lack of priests
Perhaps also because the abuse debate touches on a fundamental dilemma of the Catholic Church, as described by the head of the Italian Episcopal Conference, Cardinal Gualtiero Bassetti: She suffers from an acute shortage of priests, but sees herself after the scandals in the duty to improve training and raise the claims : "We can not take the risk anymore," Bassetti said in a video message. And apparently wants to accept the consequences: "That means: fewer priests, fewer clerics, but more prudence."
"That was a tough start," says Matthias Katsch of the affected organization "Eckiger Tisch". Although there are bishops who honestly strive for more transparency. "But some still have not heard the shot."
It would need a clear message from the ruling monarch, the pope, Katsch said. Separation of powers and independent jurisdiction could only be enforced with concurrent control. "This is a very long process in a totalitarian system, but we survivors do not have that much time."
The first day of the conference shows that perspectives on the events of abuse in the universal Church are also very different for cultural reasons. Thus, in countries where there are child marriages, the abuse of minors is often not recognized as such, but understood as consensual sex in marriage. According to the 21-point plan, the Pope wants to help the church raise the minimum age for a marriage to 16 years.
Some bishops routinely express consternation and promise to listen to the victims - a prerequisite for working up. Others are already on the way: Australian Archbishop Mark Coleridge said he has considered abuse "first as a sin, then as a crime, and finally as a culture." If the church wants to fight the abuse of the root, it needs a change of culture and should not only treat the symptoms.
"This is a way of the cross", emphasized the Maltese archbishop Charles Scicluna. The Church must now prove to believers that they are serious about preventing sexual offenses: "We will give our lives for the flock entrusted to us."